By Kelly Morgan


Every year, the teachers at each school in the Jackson County Public Schools system vote one of their number Teacher of the Year.

The 2020-21 selections are Brittany Payne (Fairview Elementary School), Megan Brown (Cullowhee Valley Elementary School), Megan Davis (Scotts Creek Elementary School), Wanda Crisp (Blue Ridge Elementary School), Wes Willoughby (Smoky Mountain Elementary School), Laura Spaulding (Jackson Community School), Suzanne Tompkins (Smoky Mountain High School), Nick Pressler (Blue Ridge Early College) and Inga Sutton (Jackson County Early College).

To be eligible to be Teacher of the Year, a teacher must hold a Standard Professional 2 license, be employed full-time and spend 70 percent of his or her teaching time in direct instruction of North Carolina public school students.

After teachers are selected from their schools, they enter the running for the county, region and eventually state levels, should they make it that far.

School Superintendent Kim Elliott said the county’s Teachers of the Year were chosen due to their excellence in a variety of areas. Above all, she said, these are “teachers who care about children first.”

Among other skills, these teachers work well in a team environment, are able to engage both students and parents, and “not only have strong content knowledge, but are also skilled in conveying that knowledge,” she said.

“This is an excellent slate of candidates,” Elliot said. “I’m quite certain that any of them will represent JCPS well at the regional level.”

Dawn Gilchrist, an English teacher at Jackson Community School, was selected as the 2019-20 regional Teacher of the Year, which Elliott said was “quite an honor for both Dawn and the county.” 

On July 10, Gilchrist, Elliot and Gilchrist’s family will travel to Raleigh where the state Teacher of the Year will be announced.

Morgan is a Sylva Herald intern.