From Classroom to World-Changers: Celebrating Teachers This Week

Author: Secretary Reid Wilson

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I kicked it off by visiting Rockingham Early College High School, located in Wentworth, NC, where I spent time with Ms. Valencia Abbott, a history and civics teacher at the school.

Ms. Abbott has been cultivating curious young historians for over 10 years. As an America 250 NC Freedom Fellow (2024), a coach for National History Day, and the founding club leader for her school’s Tar Heel Junior Historian Association, Ms. Abbott takes full advantage of many Department of Natural and Cultural Resources programs and resources available to our state’s teachers. I joined Ms. Abbott’s history club meeting on Monday, witnessing firsthand the positive effect that engaged teaching has on developing a lifelong love of learning and an appreciation of our state’s history, heritage, and culture.

She’s exactly the teacher we had in mind when developing our Learning Happens Here initiative.

Ms. Abbott exemplifies so many qualities of what’s right with public education — and how we can help. She is dedicated to teaching a comprehensive history of our state, in a way that empowers the next generation of North Carolina’s innovators and leaders. Through her passion, commitment, and love of learning, she fosters a deep understanding of our shared past while cultivating an appreciation for history and culture in her young scholars.

I have tremendous respect for teachers, and it’s not just because my mother was a 3rd  and 4th-grade teacher. I believe teaching is the most important job in the world. And yet these are difficult times for educators, with so many challenges to their expertise and ability.  DNCR values teachers as professionals.

And it shows.

“DNCR has given me the opportunity to discover the history of various areas through place-based learning, and the professional development they provide directly impacts my own understanding and teaching,” Ms. Abbott shared with me. “DNCR propelled me into teacher professional development heaven this year when I was selected as one of 17 America 250 Freedom Fellows. It’s an honor to network and collaborate with brilliant teachers from across the state.”

Senior Audrey Seiler explained how involvement in Ms. Abbott’s Tar Heel Junior Historian club, as well as participating in History Day, has helped her.

“Yes, I have grown to love history,” she said. “But I’ve also developed skills that have helped me be successful, from researching to public speaking. Being involved in this helped me in everything from job interviews to college applications.” Audrey will attend UNC-Chapel Hill this fall, where she plans to major in chemistry.

As exceptional as Ms. Abbott is, it’s important to remember that she is only one of thousands of teachers working tirelessly across the state. In a time when educators are continually expected to do more with less, DNCR is proud to support K-12 teachers with meaningful programs and resources through Learning Happens Here.

Our agency has dozens of educators on our staff across the department. We host hundreds of thousands of students every year at our more than 100 locations. We have extensive online content and resources. Through Learning Happens Here, we’re bringing it all together to reach more teachers like Ms. Abbott, and more students. We recognize our state’s teachers as professional scholars who are inspiring the next generation of historians, scientists, artists, government leaders, and, of course, teachers.

Related Topics: