GASTONIA, N.C. – Gaston County Schools has announced its “Of the Year” award recipients for the 2020-2021 academic year.
The Zoom video conferencing platform was used to inform the finalists of the winner in each “Of the Year” category: Teacher, New Teacher, Teacher Assistant, Principal, Assistant Principal, and Central Office Administrator.
Teacher of the Year and
Principal of the Year
Peter Jones, a biology, forensics, and physical science teacher at North Gaston High School, was chosen as the Gaston County Teacher of the Year, and Crystal Houser of Forestview High School was named the Gaston County Principal of the Year. Jones and Houser will represent Gaston County in the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year regional competitions.
As the winners of the school district’s most prestigious awards for educators, Jones and Houser will receive the Wells Fargo Bank Educator Apple trophy and $1,250 from Wells Fargo to use for professional development.
Jones joined Gaston County Schools in 2015. He is a graduate of Lee University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He says his secret to success in education is focusing on building relationships with students, parents, and colleagues.
Houser joined Gaston County Schools in 1997, and before being appointed principal at Forestview, she served as the W.C. Friday Middle School principal. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in biology, a teaching certificate in comprehensive science, and a master’s degree in school administration and curriculum and instruction, all from UNC-Charlotte.
The finalists for Teacher of the Year were Sharon Beckford, exceptional children teacher at Carr Elementary School; Steven Austin, chorus teacher at Forestview High School; and Jennifer Gallagher, business and marketing teacher at Highland School of Technology. The finalists for Principal of the Year were Chad Hovis, Brookside Elementary School; Audrey Devine, Stuart W. Cramer High School; and Amy Holbrook, York Chester Middle School.
The Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year finalists will receive $250 from Wells Fargo to use for professional development.
Here’s a look at the additional “Of the Year” award winners:
New Teacher of the Year
The 2020-2021 New Teacher of the Year is Trevor Dunlap of Pleasant Ridge Elementary School.
Dunlap teaches fourth grade and serves as the School Improvement Team chairperson. He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Western Carolina University and a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Hartford.
The finalist for New Teacher of the Year were Mica Cline, Bessemer City Middle School; Hannah Fore, W.A. Bess Elementary School; and James Tatum, Mount Holly Middle School.
Teacher Assistant of the Year
The 2020-2021 Teacher Assistant of the Year is Maggie Jo Hess of Webb Street School.
Hess has worked for Gaston County Schools for four years. She earned a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy from East Carolina University and aspires to become a physical education teacher. Hess also serves as the cross country coach at Ashbrook High School.
The finalists for Teacher Assistant of the Year were Kathaleen Heath, Pinewood Elementary School; Karen Hendricks, Chapel Grove Elementary School; Bridget Means, Carr Elementary School; and Shirley Trobaugh, Springfield Elementary School.
Assistant Principal of the Year
The 2020-2021 Assistant Principal of the Year is Tom Potter of Bessemer City High School.
Potter graduated from N.C. State University with a bachelor’s degree in textile management. He earned a master’s degree in secondary mathematics education and a doctorate degree in education leadership from UNC-Charlotte. Before becoming an assistant principal, he taught math at Forestview High School.
The finalists for Assistant Principal of the Year were Connie Greene, Cherryville Elementary School; Deana Ohman, Bessemer City Primary School; and Patrick Watson, Bessemer City Central Elementary School.
Administrator of the Year
The 2020-2021 Central Office Administrator of the Year is Tamara Houchard, the MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) facilitator and PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) coordinator for the school district.
A National Board Certified Teacher, Houchard joined Gaston County Schools in 2016, but began her career in education in 1999. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Appalachian State University and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Western Carolina University.
The finalists for Central Office Administrator of the Year were Brett Buchanan, director of Career and Technical Education; and Shannon Hullett, director of elementary instruction.
“We would like to congratulate all of our award winners, finalists, and nominees for their outstanding work and dedication to the education profession,” stated W. Jeffery Booker, Superintendent of Schools. “The educators being recognized represent more than 3,800 employees who go beyond expectations every day to support our students and inspire success.”
Dr. Booker continued, “The Board of Education joins me in commending each of our award recipients for the 2020-2021 academic year and expressing our sincere appreciation to all employees for their steadfast commitment to Gaston County Schools.”
The teacher, principal, assistant principal, and central office administrator winners are usually announced during Teacher Appreciation Week in May at the Evening of Excellence ceremony while the new teacher and teacher assistant winners are honored during a reception at the Schiele Museum. Unfortunately, the events were not held this year because of concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Gaston County Schools Communications Department is producing a video to recognize the winners and finalists in each category. The “Excellence in Education Awards Presentation” will air on Spectrum Cable Channel 21 the week of September 21 and be available on the district’s YouTube channel.