JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Kevin Barry, a third-grade teacher at Jacksonville Commons Elementary School, has been named the 2023-2024 OCS Teacher of the Year by Onslow County Schools.

Barry, who was named in a surprise announcement at the OCS Excellence in Education event on Thursday, has been teaching for eight years and has spent them all teaching 3rd grade at JCE. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary and Special Education from King’s College.

As the Instructional Framework Champion on his campus, Barry strives to improve school culture and produce better outcomes for students. He gladly takes on the role of being an advocate for his fellow teachers, taking every opportunity to model high-yield strategies, demonstrate classroom management systems, encourage increased student engagement, and more.

In addition to improving instruction and communication between teachers and students, Barry advocates for educating “the whole child.” He believes it is important for teachers to build positive relationships with their students and make uplifting decisions in their interactions with them.

Onslow County Schools Board of Education Chairman Ken Reddic, left, Kevin Barry and Onslow County Schools Superintendent Barry Collins (Onslow County Schools photo)

“Teachers understand that a child who hears criticism, ridicule, and shame learns condemnation, shyness, and guilt,” he said. “Whereas a child who hears encouragement, praise, and security learns confidence, appreciation, and trust.”

Barry also said that while grades and testing can provide valuable data, it is important to acknowledge and nurture students as unique learners with strengths not measured on tests. “Every child is gifted at something,” he said. “They just unwrap their packages at different times, and it is our job as teachers to help them find them.”

The OCS TOY Committee is led by Dr. Christopher Barnes, OCS Chief Academic Officer, and includes the previous OCS Teacher of the Year and last year’s Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year, as well as a community member and other district staff. The committee reviewed portfolios of all teachers selected by their schools as their TOY. Interviews were conducted with the top 10 semi-finalists. Following the interviews, the committee narrowed the field to five finalists and conducted classroom observations to determine who would be the 2023-2024 TOY.

Next, Barry will go on to compete at the regional level. Winners at the regional level will compete for North Carolina Teacher of the Year.

(Onslow County Schools photo)

TOY top-five finalists included:
• Kelley Crenshaw, Coastal Elementary School
• Magen Strimple, Dixon Middle School
• Cathy Darden, Hunters Creek Middle School
• Kevin Barry, Jacksonville Commons Elementary School
• Tiffany Woodard, Richlands Elementary School

2023-2024 School-Level Teachers of the Year

Each school in the district completed the process of selecting its Teacher of the Year. The winners, chosen by their peers, are nominated to compete for the honor of Onslow County School’s Teacher of the Year.

Sherrell Hall Bell, Fork Elementary
Shawn Babner, Blue Creek Elementary
Diana Feijoo, Carolina Forest Elementary
Amanda Neighbors, Clear View Elementary
Johanna Rodriguez, Clyde Erwin Elementary
Kelley Crenshaw, Coastal Elementary
Eva Moore, Dixon Elementary
Shaun Edwards, Dixon High
Magen Strimple, Dixon Middle
Susi Price, ENC Regional Skills Center
Melaney Orr, Heritage Elementary
Nicole Fifer, Hunters Creek Elementary
Cathy Darden, Hunters Creek Middle
Kevin Barry, Jacksonville Commons Elementary
Tamica Garvin, Jacksonville Commons Middle
Valerie Ligon, Jacksonville High
Carly Smolensky, Meadow View Elementary
Christine Staggs, Morton Elementary
Michelle Mueller, New Bridge Middle
Rachel Livermore, Northside High
Heidi Clark, Northwoods Elementary
Thomas Reed, Northwoods Park Middle
Devon Holson, Onslow County Learning Center
Brandon Stallard, Onslow Early College High
Angela Williams, Onslow Virtual Elementary
Robin Frost, Onslow Virtual Secondary
Jennifer Houston, Parkwood Elementary
Jennifer Cole, Queens Creek Elementary
Tiffany Woodard, Richlands Elementary
Stephanie Williams, Richlands High
Jamie Price-Cooper, Sand Ridge Elementary
Savannah Parker, Silverdale Elementary
Melissa Baker, Southwest Elementary
Lance Barton, Southwest High
Alexandria Leo, Southwest Middle
Christina Kroger, Stateside Elementary
Hannah Daley, Summersill Elementary
Heather Sigafose, Swansboro Elementary
Kelly Meadows, Swansboro High
Whitney Collard, Swansboro Middle
Lisa Whimple Thompson, Early Childhood Center
Chelsea Bernetski, Trexler Middle
Austin Huffman, White Oak High