GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Pitt County Schools honored its teaching and faculty staff Wednesday with its annual banquet.

The PCS awards banquet is where staff from across the school system gathered together to hear from past award winners. The employee and teacher of the year awards were given out.

The 2023-24 Pitt County Schools Teacher of the Year is Ainsley Vanbuskirk, a first-grade teacher at Pactolus School who has nine year of experience. She joined the Pactolus staff in 2020 after working at Belvoir Elementary in August of 2014 and starting her career as an exceptional children’s teacher assistant at Chicod School eight months earlier.

“A lot of heart, a lot of dedication,” said Vanbuskirk. “This is not just a job, this is more like a lifestyle. Teaching is like who you are, down to the core, in the like inside. It’s a job that you take home with you sometimes.”

She earned an associate’s degree from Pitt Community College in 2011 before following with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from East Carolina University in 2013. VanBuskirk, who holds membership in the Pitt County Association of Educators, is National Board certified.

The banquet recognized all those who were nominated for teacher and employees of the year. Pitt County Schools also thanked the Pitt County Farm Bureau for sponsoring this year’s event.

Stacy Knight of Elmhurst Elementary School was recognized as runner-up for the award.

Knight, who also teaches first grade, was appointed to her current position in the fall of 2017 after spending the previous spring semester at Eastern Elementary in Beaufort County. She holds several leadership positions at Elmhurst, including chair of the Guiding Coalition, Kindness Club and Grade Level Committee, while also facilitating its Professional Learning Community (PLC).

An ECU graduate, Knight earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and K12 reading certificate in 2005. Knight was also awarded credentials for Inclusive Classrooms and Think Like a Global Leader, while holding Clinical Teacher status from East Carolina and UNC Charlotte since 2018 and 2021, respectively.

Other finalists included Nicole Davis (Ridgewood Elementary School), Susie Glynn (G.R. Whitfield School), Grace Hale (Ayden-Grifton High School), Alessandra Nysether-Santos (J.H. Rose High School) and Jonathan Riggs (Farmville Central High School).

Another featured event during the banquet was recognizing five deserving individuals as Pitt County Schools Employees of the Year, which covers various classified staff positions. Winners honored were Debra Faison from Ridgewood Elementary School (office/clerical), George Grimes from D.H. Conley High School (teacher assistant), Mary Johnson from Ayden Middle School (school nutrition manager), Bobby Langley, Sr. from Hope Middle School (custodian) and Mary Newton from Wintergreen Primary School (school nutrition employee).