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NEWS RELEASES 2002-03 :: JANUARY 15, 2003


North Carolina's 2002-03 Teacher of the Year, Melissa Ellis Bartlett, a Statesville high school language arts and English as a Second Language teacher, is one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year honors, according to G. Thomas Houlihan, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers. The National Teacher of the Year program is sponsored by CCSSO and Scholastic Inc., and the organizations announced the finalists today.

North Carolina has fielded a national finalist for Teacher of the Year five times since 1970 and has had three national winners. The National Teacher of the Year has been selected annually for 53 years.

State Superintendent Mike Ward congratulated Bartlett, who teaches at Statesville High School in Iredell-Statesville Schools, and called the announcement "great news for North Carolina and for our teachers."

"Melissa represents thousands of outstanding teachers across the state, and I am very pleased that she is considered one of the four top teachers in the entire nation. We wish her well in the national competition," he said.

The other finalists are Helen Elizabeth (Betsy) Dawson Rogers, a first and second grade teacher in Leeds, Alabama; Lorraine Johnson, a seventh grade language arts teacher from Newnan, Georgia; and Jennifer J. Montgomery, an English and Journalist teacher in Bismark, North Dakota.

Bartlett, who serves as an advisor to the State Board of Education, said that education is critical to a society's well-being and prosperity. Education should be a number one priority, she said.

"We must take ownership of and nurture our educational institutions," she said. "By 'we' I mean parents, teachers, students, presidents, legislators, CEOs, business owners, retirees - everyone should have a vested interest in what goes on in our schools; after all, it is where our future spends most of its time at least five days a week. I would encourage volunteerism and activism as means of supporting education. I also encourage people not to be satisfied with what they hear or read, but to go into schools to see all the good things happening there and how they can help. I would also urge people to support the educational needs of their communities even in the face of economic downturns because without education a society's prosperity is even more difficult to achieve and maintain."

Bartlett has 18 years of teaching experience, including eight years internationally. She has been with Iredell-Statesville Schools for the past four years teaching English, grammar and composition and creative writing to high school students. Bartlett received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Old Dominion University and a Master's Degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from The American University in Cairo. She also achieved National Board Certification in 1998.

The North Carolina Teacher of the Year spends the school year traveling the state as an ambassador for the teaching profession. She also receives a brand new automobile from the NC Automobile Dealers Association, a one-time $7,500 stipend and a trip to a national conference. In addition, the state Teacher of the Year serves as an advisor to the State Board of Education.

The National Teacher of the Year Program designates a representative of the country's teachers from among the Teachers of the Year representing the states, U.S. territories, District of Columbia and Department of Defense schools. During the year of recognition, the National Teacher of the Year is a spokesperson for the teaching profession, addressing forums and meetings across the country and internationally.

A panel of educators, representing 15 national education organizations, chose the finalists and will select the 2003 National Teacher of the Year to be announced in April 2003 by President George W. Bush.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.