R.N. Harris Elementary School teacher Kirtina Jones was named the Durham Public Schools’ 2018 Teacher of the Year on Wednesday night during a banquet at the Washington Duke Inn.
Jones, a second-grade teacher at R.N. Harris, was one of five finalists for the coveted honor.
The other four were Alice Dominguez of J.D. Clement Early College High School, Lori Rose of City of Medicine Academy, Lindsey Russ of Spring Valley Elementary School and Jill Snow of Githens Middle School.
Jones was described in a news release announcing the honor as a “consistent and stable presence” in the lives of the students who attend the Integrated Arts and Core Knowledge Magnet School.
“Ms. Jones has created a learning environment where children are not afraid to take risks and where they are eager to learn every day,” said R.N. Harris Principal Carolyn Pugh. “She is truly a champion for every child she teaches.”
When she was a child, Jones said being at school became a refuge.
“I always admired how the same people were always there and I could depend on them for stability and support,” Jones said. “Being from a small, rural town, I though that was the way schools were all around the world.”
Jones said that she became an educator because of the examples her childhood teachers set.
She said those teachers were there for her after she lost her older brother in a car accident and her mother due to illness.
In the classroom, Jones practices what she calls her “Whitley Gilbert School of Thought,” which is to relax, relate and release.
Whitley Gilbert is a character from the TV sitcom “A Different World.”
Jones is a member of the first cohort of recipients of the Ron Edmonds Scholarship for teaching, which supported students who would teach in high-needs areas after graduation.
According to the news release, she is a firm believer in accommodating the individual learning styles of students along as they do not impede others.
Jones also believes in allowing students to start each day with a “fresh slate” by not dwelling on problems from the previous day.
As teacher of the year, Jones receives a $1,000 award, a gift from the school district’s business partners, and will move on to compete in regional level of the state’s Teacher of the Year program.
Each of the other four finalists received a $500 award.
DPS also handed out Most Outstanding Beginning Teacher Awards to three early-career teachers.
Those teachers were Rebecca Fumarola of Lakewood Elementary School, Crystal Morel of Brogden Middle School and Shannon Potter of Jordan High School.