CARY, N.C. — Kimberly S. Jones, a veteran English teacher at Chapel Hill High School, was named the 2023 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year during an awards luncheon Friday at the Umstead Hotel in Cary.
Jones was selected from a field of nine finalists representing the state’s eight education districts and charter schools, including one from Beaufort County and another from Craven County.
Jones is known in her school and across the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district as a teacher-leader who champions equitable access to advanced courses and academic success for all students.
Since joining the Chapel Hill High faculty in 2006 after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wake Forest University, Jones has taught 10th-grade English and supported students through AVID – a program grounded in the belief that all students, especially those from underrepresented communities, deserve equitable access to rigorous courses that best prepare them for college admission and success.
Charles Blanchard, who retired this month as principal of Chapel Hill High, said in a letter recommending Jones as Teacher of the Year that she’s had an important and lasting impact on the school.
“Her vision has helped our entire school effectively reach students of all ability levels and provided more equity-centered classrooms for our students,” Blanchard said. “Her leadership has also opened doors for our students of color, resulting in an increase of those students enrolling in honors and Advanced Placement courses.”
Discussing a class unit focusing on the Holocaust as part of her Teacher of the Year submission, Jones said that she shapes her lessons with “low floors AND high ceilings” to make them accessible to students of all ability levels.
“This means that the entry-level knowledge required to access and comprehend the lesson is intentionally low, so all students feel confident to engage with the concepts,” she said, “while the extension and growth opportunities for students who need and desire greater academic challenge are also present.
“Ultimately, I strive to equip my students with a diversity of meaningful learning experiences that make them more informed, empowered, compassionate, and adept global citizens in the 21st century.”
In addition to teaching English, Jones also serves as co-coordinator of Chapel Hill High’s AVID program, helping integrate its equity-focused values into the overall school culture by collaborating with faculty and keeping in touch with students and parents.
“If students are experiencing academic or personal challenges, teachers and parents know they can share concerns and work with me to create and implement strategies and practices that will help the student meet their academic and personal potential,” Jones said. “Such focused interventions have directly impacted student learning and contributed to improved instruction throughout the school for all learners.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said that Jones exemplifies the qualities of teacher leadership that are the bedrock of schools that set high expectations for students while providing the critical support they need to succeed.
“Every school needs a Mrs. Jones,” Truitt said. “It’s obvious that students thrive in her classes, and that she makes things happen for the better in her school. I look forward to the contributions she’ll be making across North Carolina as state Teacher of the Year.”
Jones succeeds the 2022 Teacher of the Year, Leah Carper, an English teacher at Northern Guilford High School. The N.C. Burroughs Wellcome Teacher of the Year is chosen by a committee of professional educators as well as business and community leaders. The state selection committee members are chosen based on their active public record in support of education.
Dr. Lou Muglia, president and CEO of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, said the foundation continues to be proud to support the North Carolina Teacher of the Year Award.
“Congratulations to the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Teacher of the Year – an inspiration to students and a voice for educators,” Muglia said. “The passion, dedication, and unwavering commitment to students’ success is a testament to the profound impact that great teachers have on shaping our future generations. We look forward to collaborating with the 2023 North Carolina Teacher of the Year and the regional finalists.”
Outside her classroom, Jones serves as an equity team leader for her school and on the district’s instructional planning team. She previously was lead teacher for the school’s English 10 professional learning community, focusing on best practices and student performance, and beyond Chapel Hill High, she was an area coordinator for Governor’s School West, where she also taught for 12 years.
Jones extends her own learning after the school year ends, developing content through involvement with several educational organizations, including AVID, the Olga Lengyel Institute for Holocaust Studies and Human Rights Satellite Program, the N.C. Council on the Holocaust, and the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT).
“She brings what she has learned back to our campus and provides our teachers with professional development and guidance to improve student outcomes in their classrooms,” Blanchard said in his recommendation letter. “Mrs. Jones is the ‘teacher leader’ every principal wants to have on their faculty.”
In her submission materials, Jones identified two critical issues in public education now: the persistent opportunity and achievement gap between underrepresented minorities and white students and the critical need for greater diversity among the state’s teachers.
“Despite significant financial and professional development investment from school districts via curriculum adoptions and increased access to technology, Black and Brown students have yet to reach parity in achievement levels with their White peers,” Jones said. “I have committed myself to learning more about the systemic inequities and pedagogical barriers within school and community environments that contribute to the disparity.”
On the issue of diversity among teachers, she said, “I believe it’s imperative for all students to see themselves and their identities positively reflected in their learning … Students of color need and deserve to have educators who look like them as positive factors in their formal education, and White students also deserve to have educators that reflect the diverse world in which they will be building their futures.”
As with other regional finalists, Jones was first recognized this school year as teacher of the year at her school and district.
As Teacher of the Year, she will spend the next school year traveling the state as an ambassador for the teaching profession as supported by Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
In addition, Jones will have the opportunity to attend a seminar at the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), receive a mobile device from Lenovo valued at approximately $1,600, an engraved vase, a cash award of $7,500, a trip to the National Teacher of the Year Conference and International Space Camp, a prize pack and opportunity to be honored during a football game from NC State Athletics, a cash award of $2,500 from Flow Honda to assist with travel costs in the state as Teacher of the Year, a cash award of $2,000 from Bojangles and the opportunity to travel abroad through an endowment sponsored by Go Global NC. Additionally, each of the nine finalists will also receive a $250 Amazon gift card from No Kid Hungry.
Jones also 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.
The other regional finalists were:
- Northeast: Casey Schulte, Bath Elementary (Beaufort County Schools)
- Southeast, Laura Wilson, Roger Bell New Tech Academy (Craven County Schools)
- Sandhills: Teena Robinson, Mineral Springs Elementary (Richmond County Schools)
- Piedmont-Triad: Tiffany Wynn, Thomasville Middle (Thomasville City Schools)
- Southwest: Rachel Frye, East Lincoln High (Lincoln County Schools)
- Northwest: Shea Bolick, South Caldwell High (Caldwell County Schools)
- Western: Rachael Ray, Madison High (Madison County Schools)
- Charter School: Ryan Henderson, Sugar Creek Charter School
North Carolina has recognized outstanding teachers through its Teacher of the Year program since 1970. For more information on North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year recognition program, visit the program’s website. You also can follow the North Carolina Teacher of the Year finalists on Twitter at #NCTOYPOY
With support from Equitable Advisors and PBS North Carolina, a recording of this year’s livestream of the Teacher of the Year event will be available on DPI’s YouTube channel.