NEWS RELEASES 2013-14 :: APRIL 3, 2014


James Ford, a World History teacher at Garinger High School (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) today was named the 2014 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year at a luncheon held in Cary. Ford succeeds Karyn Dickerson, an English teacher at Grimsley High School (Guilford County Schools).

In making the presentation, State Superintendent June Atkinson said, “James draws from his own experiences in a way that helps his students relate to him, respect him and learn from him. His true passion is to change lives and that is exactly what he does in his classroom, while working with colleagues and in his volunteer work in the community. I am excited that he will share this enthusiasm and his talents with teachers across the state as North Carolina’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.”

State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey also congratulated Ford on his selection. "It is clear that James is a leader who is guided by a strong belief that no aspect of society is more important than education.  His students and fellow teachers have benefitted from his dedication and perspective, and I look forward to working with him as he serves as an advisor to the State Board of Education," he said.

Atkinson also applauded the Burroughs Wellcome Fund for its strong support of the program.

"The Burroughs Wellcome Fund is again proud to sponsor the North Carolina Teacher of the Year," said BWF President John Burris. “North Carolina’s teachers are valued professionals who are providing a critical service to future generations of students."

Ford calls his path to a career in teaching “long and unorthodox.” Before becoming a teacher, he pursued a career in print journalism and then served as a truancy intervention specialist and director of a teen center. He enjoyed his work with youth so much that he decided to become a teacher. Ford also recognizes the irony of his career choice since he considers himself to have been a “disengaged and apathetic student.” He now uses this experience to strengthen his teaching. “I remember all too well sitting in those desks, waiting to be challenged, engaged and stretched,” he said. “Now I sit in the seat of instruction, fueled by the motivation to be the teacher that I never had. Instead of teaching like I was most often taught, I spend a tremendous amount of energy daily planning, reflecting and experimenting, attempting to teach in a new way.”

In receiving the honor, Ford said, “I am excited to use this stage to fulfill my life’s work by doing just what I have been called to do—educate. My message to the general public is simple: It all begins with education. What we do every day may very well be the only profession every other profession is dependent upon.”

Ford has spent the last four years out of his five-year career in education teaching World History to 9th graders at Garinger High. During his first year as an educator, he taught World History at Guilford High School in Rockford, Ill.

One of Ford’s guiding principles is to show his students how important education is to their future. “If my students have learned nothing else from me, my hope is that they understand the value that they all carry and the life-changing potential of quality education,” he said. “Unlike my former self, I now comprehend the true relevance of academics and just how much it relates to real life. My task is to impart this revelation to each and every one of my students, one lesson at a time.”

Ford is currently a Professional Learning Community leader and co-leader of the F.R.E.S.H. Peer Mentorship Program at Garinger High. He also helps to conduct schoolwide professional development on wiki pages and he conducted professional development in the Common Core State Standards for all World History teachers in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. In addition, Ford served on the Common Core State Standards World History Curriculum Writing Team and is co-chair of the annual Garinger Cultural Fair. Ford also is the director of ministries at Sanctuary Charlotte United Methodist Church, a board member for Behailu Academy, which provides arts experiences for urban youth, and a member of Mecklenburg Ministries and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

He has received several awards including the 2013 Southwest Region Teacher of the Year, 2013 Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' Teacher of the Year, 2013 Central Secondary Zone Teacher of the Year, and the 2013 Garinger High School Teacher of the Year.

He graduated from Illinois State University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication.  In 2009, he received a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) from Rockford College in Ill.  Ford is currently working towards earning a doctoral degree in educational leadership from Wingate University.

As Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year, Ford will spend the next school year traveling the state as an ambassador for the teaching profession.

Ford also will receive use of a state vehicle for one year, a one-year leased vehicle from Flow Automotive, LLC, the opportunity to attend a seminar at the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), a mobile device from Lenovo valued at approximately $1600, an engraved vase, a one-time cash award of $7,500, a trip to the National Teacher of the Year Conference and International Space Camp, the opportunity to travel abroad through an endowment through the North Carolina Center for International Understanding, and a technology package valued at more than $11,000 from SMART Technologies. He will serve as an advisor to the State Board of Education for two years and as a board member for the NC Public School Forum for one year. In addition, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction will sponsor his enrollment and completion of the Education Policy Fellowship Program.

 The other regional finalists were:

  • North Central Region: Rhonda Holmes, Conway Middle (Northampton County Schools);
  • Northeast Region: Charlene Evans, Plymouth High (Washington County Schools);
  • Northwest Region: Alex Reynolds, Jesse Carson High (Rowan-Salisbury Schools);
  • Southeast Region: Melissa Gillespie, Laney High (New Hanover County Schools);
  • Sandhills/South Central Region: Everlene Davis, South Columbus High (Columbus County Schools);
  • Piedmont-Triad/Central Region: Kathy Saunders, Asheboro High (Asheboro City Schools);
  • West Region: Melissa Faetz, South Macon Elementary (Macon County Schools); and
  • Charter Schools: Chris Weaver, Evergreen Charter (Buncombe County).

North Carolina has recognized outstanding teachers through its Teacher of the Year program since 1970. For more information, visit here.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 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.