Orange County Teacher of the Year brings enthusiasm, wonder to classroom
Jeffrey Faulkner has been described as the teacher that parents should want for their children.
Faulkner’s work has not gone unnoticed. The C.W. Stanford eighth-grade teacher was recently named the Orange County Teacher of the Year by his peers.
“I was shocked,” he said of the announcement. “I thought I was going to pass out. I was very surprised.”
Faulkner has eight years in education, three of those years teaching eighth-grade science. Before teaching, Faulkner spent 23 years in sales. The notion of teaching came while working at his home.
“I was out mowing the yard one day. It was 90 degrees with 85 percent humidity and something said ‘go teach’,” he said. “Then I decided that I wanted to teach middle school, that that’s where I want to be. … It’s been a wonderful ride.”
He enjoys his students, and values what they bring to the classroom. “I’ve gotten more from them than they get from me,” he said. “Their first day here I tell them to act like they’re 2-(year-olds) again and to ask questions. That’s what science is all about.
“They may not use half of the stuff we teach them here, but we can teach them how to be good students and how to be good citizens,” Faulkner said. “In a sense, we’re all teachers.”
Faulkner’s day begins at 4 a.m. Once he gets to school, he begins gathering materials for the day or attends a professional learning community meeting. He finishes those tasks in time to greet each of his students at the door as they enter class.
From 3:20-5:30 p.m. Faulkner works with an after-school STEM program with an engineering focus Monday through Wednesday. He is also helping the school to earn its STEM certification.
“[Faulkner] brings enthusiasm and wonder to his classroom every single day,” said CTE Technology Teacher James Lewis. “Spend one minute in his classroom and you'll see that Mr. Faulkner's primary focus is teaching his students to be not just great scientists, but well-rounded and critical thinking citizens of the wider world.”
Eric McDuffie, an eighth-grade science teacher at C.W. Stanford, said that Faulker has had an impact as a colleague, as well.
“I have learned a great deal from him through our joint collaboration in preparing our students for high school and beyond,” McDuffie said.
For fellow teachers who are new to the profession, Faulkner offers some straightforward advice.
“You have to follow your heart,” he said. “You have to follow what makes you happy. It it’s your passion, stick with it.”
Faulkner has an undergraduate degree from UNC Chapel Hill in biology and is working on his doctorate in education in organizational leadership at Grand Canyon University.