• Katherine Byrd of Carr Elementary is Gaston County’s nominee for state award

    Kindergarten teacher Katherine “Katie” Byrd realized something was going on when Carr Elementary principal Rebekah Duncan called an afternoon school assembly for all kindergarten and first grade classes. However, she did not know the program was for her.

    Kathryn ByrdThat changed when her family walked into the gymnasium, and she saw her mother’s smiling face. 

    Byrd is the Gaston County Schools nominee for the 2023 N.C. Beginning Teacher of the Year award, which is presented by the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT).  The news, announced during the assembly on September 22 by Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker, came as a complete surprise to Byrd.

    I am very shocked and surprised.  I thought the award was for the school and not about me,” said Byrd, who added that, according to the chatter at school, the assembly was going to be about a new playground.  Her husband, Thomas, was in on keeping the secret (Duncan had contacted him the previous week about getting family members to attend) and so were others at the school.    

    Each year, NCCAT sponsors the N.C. Beginning Teacher of the Year program.  Every school district has the opportunity to nominate a candidate for the state honor, and from all of the nominees, 27 regional finalists are chosen.  The finalists go to the NCCAT headquarters in Cullowhee for a week of professional development in March.  The week-long activities culminate with the announcement of the N.C. Beginning Teacher of the Year winner for 2023.
    The state award is designed to honor new teachers who have completed their first year in the classroom and show promise as excellent teachers and education leaders.

    Byrd began her teaching career in August 2021.  She earned her degree from UNC-Chapel Hill where she met her husband, who graduated from Gaston County Schools.  Originally from Pinehurst, Byrd says Gaston County feels like home.

    “I love being at Carr,” said Byrd, who knows that establishing a good relationship with her students is the foundation for success.  “I love my students and the energy they bring to the classroom, and I try to match that energy.  I really am a kindergartener at heart.”

    Like its sister schools in the Dallas attendance area (Costner, W.C. Friday, and North Gaston), Carr Elementary incorporates the Leader in Me program into the curriculum.  The program highlights the importance of leadership and outlines seven habits that help students of all ages become more effective, more goal-oriented, and more successful as leaders both at school and in the community.

    Duncan, who knows what it is like to be an “of the year” winner – she was the Gaston County Principal of the Year for 2013-2014, said learning about and displaying leadership is not just for the students.  Teachers and staff members at the school are leaders, too.  At a Leader in Me School like Carr, effective leadership involves everyone, including outstanding teachers like Byrd.  

    “Because of her work and leadership as a first-year teacher, Mrs. Byrd is being recognized by Gaston County Schools, and we are so proud of her,” said Duncan.  “All of us at Carr know that Mrs. Byrd is the best nominee any school could ask for, and we know that she will represent us well in the competition.  If the selection committee sees in her what we already see and know, we are confident that she will be the state winner.”

    First presented during the 2019-2020 academic year, the NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year is a state-level award that is separate from the Gaston County Schools New Teacher of the Year recognition.  The NCCAT program requires a teacher to have completed one year in the classroom and be in his or her second year of teaching at the time of nomination.  The New Teacher of the Year program for Gaston County Schools considers beginning teachers with 1-3 years of experience.  The current Gaston County Schools New Teacher of the Year is Ryan Magill of Cramerton Middle School.  Click here for more information. 

    ▪ Our Nominees for N.C. Beginning Teacher of the Year
    2019-2020: Victoria Freeman, Catawba Heights Elementary School *
    2020-2021: James Robinson, Belmont Central Elementary School
    2021-2022: Sydney Hillman, Lowell Elementary School
    2022-2023: Katherine Byrd, Carr Elementary School
    * Chosen as a regional finalist

VIDEO: Carr Elementary teacher is Gaston County's nominee for state award

VIDEOS: Teacher nominated for award