Durham Public Schools names its Teacher of the Year finalists

The Durham Public Schools has released the names of its five Teacher of the Year finalists.

Candidates were nominated by their schools and submitted information packets for consideration.

The Teacher of the Year selection committee selected 10 semi-finalists to interview before winnowing the list to five finalists.

The 2018 Durham Public Schools Teacher of the Year will be named at the annual Teacher of the Year banquet on May 23 where all school-based Teachers of the Year, semifinalists and finalists will be honored.

In addition, this year, a Beginning Teacher of the Year has been added and one outstanding beginning teacher from each school level -elementary, middle and high — will be recognized.

Here is information on each of the Teacher of the Year finalists:

Alice Dominguez, J.D. Clement Early College High School

Alice Dominguez chose to teach and stay in the profession because of the incredible responsibility she feels to lovingly cultivate the next generation of leaders.

As a ninth grade English I and II Honors teacher at J.D. Clement Early College High School, Dominguez believes the greatest gift she can give her students is the opportunity to discover their strengths and learn how they can use those strengths as they move on to future endeavors.

One of the accomplishments Dominguez takes the most pride in what her students do with the skills they’ve acquired after they leave her classroom.

She finds success in teaching when a student is awarded a scholarship with an essay they wrote in her class or when a student has the confidence to compete in a national poetry slam.

“Ms. Dominguez has the ability to inspire those around her to action by leading through example and optimism. She works tirelessly to better the lives of students in our school,” wrote principal Gloria Woods-Weeks. “She makes sure that each student in her class is prepared for the work force and university level classes by having high expectations, high standards and well-planned interdisciplinary lessons, and ensuring all learning units have real-world purpose.”

Dominguez earned a bachelor’s in secondary language arts from Indiana University.

Kirtina Jones, R.N. Harris Integrated Arts and Core Knowledge Magnet School

As a member of the first cohort of the Ron Edmonds Teaching Scholars at N.C. Central University, Kirtina Jones was put on the path to teach at a high-needs school.

It was the perfect fit for Jones who has a desire to provide consistency and stability in the classroom.

As a child, Jones’ world was turned upside down after the death of her older brother and then her mother.

School was a refuge for Jones and a place where she could depend on the same people always being there giving her support.

She wants to provide that same dependability for her second-grade students at R.N. Harris Integrated Arts and Core Knowledge Magnet School.

Now in her 13th year of teaching, Jones believes her greatest contribution to her students is always being available to them to give them a shoulder to cry on and a person to confide in or a hug of support on a bad day.

She approaches each school year with the philosophy that while it may be another year of second grade for her, it is the first and only year of second grade for her students.

It is her goal to make that year positive and memorable for each child that enters her classroom.

“Ms. Jones has created a learning environment where children are not afraid to take risks and where they are eager to learn every day. She is truly a champion for every child she teaches,” wrote R.N. Harris Principal Carolyn Pugh. “She supports her students both within and beyond the classroom. She works to improve the academics of her students by providing after-school tutorials and mentoring struggling students in other classes.”

Jones received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees respectively in elementary education and educational technology from NCCU.

Lori Rose, City of Medicine Academy

While Lori Rose didn’t take the traditional path to becoming a classroom teacher, she spent her entire career as a nurse teaching, educating and training fellow medical professionals.

After 20 years in clinical research, Rose had the opportunity to take a step back and evaluate what her next career would be.

All it took was volunteering for a year in her sister’s first-grade classroom at Southwest Elementary School for her to realize that what had made her a great nurse would also make her a great teacher.

Originally planning to teach middle school, Rose changed her mind when she learned about the City of Medicine Academy. She was perfectly matched teaching health science to students in grades 9-12.

As a part of educating the next generation of health care providers, she prides herself on preparing her students to meet the challenges they will face on the next part of their education journey.

Rose also enjoys sharing curriculum materials and ideas accumulated from her former career with fellow teachers.

“Dr. Rose is a teacher that continuously challenges her students by her high standards and established set of expectations. Her many unique ideas and strategies to make otherwise dense and difficult course material engaging to a young audience are remarkable,” wrote fellow City of Medicine Academy teacher Taylor-Grace Whitfield. “Dr. Rose is one of the most compassionate and considerate educators I have ever encountered. She has surpassed the call of duty to assist students in need and to make life a little easier for colleagues.”

Rose earned a bachelor’s in nursing from UNC-Chapel Hill, a master’s in nursing from East Carolina University and a doctorate in business, organization and management from Capella University.

She also took lateral entry teaching courses required for her teaching license at Appalachian State University.

Lindsey Russ, Spring Valley Elementary

Lindsey Russ always knew she wanted to be a teacher, but only discovered later her interest in focusing on mathematics.

As a student herself (graduate studies at N.C. State University), Russ models the passion she has for learning for her fourth grade students at Spring Valley Elementary.

She thrives on sharing new things she’s learned in her class with her students, showing them the joy that can be found in education.

Only in her fifth year of teaching, Russ continues to set high goals for herself. She became the grade level chair and a member of the curriculum advisory team during her second year, was asked to create a math team for the school in her third year, and now facilitates weekly sessions for math teachers throughout DPS to provide guidance for lesson plans, share techniques and give support.

“Ms. Russ has the philosophy that one never stops learning. She strives not only to see excellence in her students but in herself as well,” wrote Spring Valley parent Bridget Vazquez Bennett in her letter of recommendation. “She provides her students with every opportunity, resource and every ounce of knowledge to be successful. Spring Valley Elementary and Durham Public Schools is blessed to have a teacher so truly talented and inspiration as part of their team.”

Russ obtained her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Appalachian State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in mathematics elementary education at N.C. State University.

Jill Snow, Sherwood Githens Middle School

As a teenager Jill Snow befriended a fellow classmate with autism she affectionately called “Turbo.”

It was this experience and friendship that sparked her passion for serving children with autism and their families.

After starting her career in a private school in Arizona, Snow has spent the past four years running the separate-setting, high-functioning autism program at Sherwood Githens Middle.

After Snow received intensive training through The Option Institute at The Autism Training Center of America, she spent her first year as a teacher marveling when a non-verbal student spoke his first words of “I love you” to his mother and a watching an aggressive, self-injurious student stop violent episodes and allow his father to hug him.

But her greatest accomplishments have come during her four years at DPS where she has been able to provide professional development about autism to staff, administrators and students, written and received grants to fund field trips that bridge the gap between the classroom and real-world experiences for students with autism and educated the entire school on what autism is by creating an autism awareness campaign.

“Mrs. Snow has a knack for knowing exactly what intervention will work with each student so the school community can assist them with improving academically, socially and emotionally. She has this knack because she takes the time to know each individual student,” wrote former Githens principal Tonya Williams. “She is effective at building relationships, she has built trust in the school community and parents trust her with their children.

Snow earned a bachelor’s from Brigham Young University, a certificate in special education from Rio Salado and her master’s in education from Arizona State University.

The semifinalists for Teacher of the Year were: Kirsten Botts, Morehead Montessori Magnet School, Kimberly Hayes, Easley Elementary, Elijah Maurer, Durham School of the Arts, Amanda Rakes, Holt Elementary Language Academy, Mikeah Sleigh, Hospital School.

Greg Childress: 919-419-6645, @gchild6645