Jackson Community School English teacher Dawn Gilchrist (left) receives a bouquet of flowers from School Superintendent Kim Elliott at the Oct. 22 school board meeting. Gilchrist was named one of two finalists for regional teacher of the year in the western end of the state.

By Dave Russell


Dawn Gilchrist only needed a year at Jackson Community School (formerly the School of Alternatives) to be named Jackson County Teacher of the Year for 2018-19. Her 32 years of experience leading up to teaching English at the newly named school undoubtedly helped.

Her resume includes 20 years in the Swain County school system and stints at Western Carolina University and Southwestern Community College.

Her approach to teaching involves treating each student as an individual with their own talents.

“My work is to help students figure out what their gifts are and what their niche is,” she said. “Where do they fit? What do they have to offer the world, and how can I best help them find that in themselves? That’s my job.”

She was considering retirement but felt a pull to come to the school, where she is the sole English teacher for grades 9-12.

“Teaching is a hard job, and I still love it after all these years,” she said. “I knew I really liked trying to fill a niche where there was a need. I think there is really a need for teachers who are passionate about what they do in public schools, but particularly in schools where students have great needs. This is a good place to teach and if this is where I finish my career, it’s a good place to do so. I think I came to the place where I am supposed to be.”

Gilchrist is one of two regional teacher of the year finalists. The other is her good friend, Norma Pattillo, with whom she taught for many years in Swain.

To become a finalist, Gilchrist had to write a series of five essays. It gets harder from here.

“The next thing they do is a site visit,” she said. “The committee comes and spends an entire day here. They will interview students, former students, colleagues and administrators, and then observe me teaching two classes. Then they will do a final interview. I think what they are looking for is someone who will represent the teaching profession well.”

The regional teacher of the year will be announced in January and go on to state and then the national level.

“Dawn Gilchrist will represent Jackson County Public Schools well in the next level of regional competition,” School Superintendent Kim Elliott said. “She is an excellent, caring teacher. We are very proud she is one of the top two teachers in the Western Region.”

Gilchrist, 56, and her husband, Tim Osment, live on Jackson Street in downtown Sylva.


On Oct. 22, Jackson County Public Schools accepted these employee recommendations: Cullowhee Valley Elementary School, April Bates, activity bus driver, Hannah Doolittle, director of afterschool, Sammy McMahan, bus driver, Mekayla Sikes, afterschool assistant, Lyndsi Young, bus monitor and tutor; Jackson Community School (formerly the School of Alternatives), Gabrielle Beam-Hiatt, temporary tutor; Smoky Mountain High School, Lindsay Button, EC homebound teacher, Ollin Dunford, ISS coordinator, Joe Allen Hoyle, substitute school nutrition assistant, Daniel Lee, part-time custodian, Kim Mullen, EC teacher assistant, Isabel Osorio and Ally Vickery, marching band assistants, Kevin Passmore, bus driver, Amber Pritchard, substitute school nutrition assistant, Dennis Proffitt, activity bus driver, Joey Robinson, teacher; Fairview Elementary School, Meredith Crisp, Lori Gilbert, April Mayes and Hannah Sullivan, afterschool tutors, Mary Derks, school counselor, Jennifer Frady, substitute school nutrition assistant, Tanya Johnson, school nutrition assistant; Blue Ridge School, Landon Holland, teacher, Tracie Metz, substitute bus driver, Susan Watkins and Nicole Westwood, grant funded afterschool tutors; Jackson County Early College, Misty Moore, activity bus driver; Smokey Mountain Elementary School, Anna Price, school nutrition assistant, Mike Treadway, substitute bus driver and activity bus driver; Scotts Creek Elementary School, Mackenize Queen, teacher; at SCES and Jackson Community School, Miranda Nashif, school nutrition assistant.

Accepted the following resignations: at SCES, Teresa Bennett, afterschool assistant, Kevin George and Kathleen McCoy, teacher; at FES, Alexis Egerdahl, school nutrition assistant, Jessica Morgan, teacher assistant; at SMHS, Mike Winchester, computer lab facilitator/ISS coordinator and coach men’s cross country.

Accepted the following staff, non-staff and returning coach recommendations: at SMES, Tasha Bell, head coach cheer, Audrey Estep, head coach girls basketball, Steven Hyatt, assistant coach boys basketball, Jesame McClellan, assistant coach girls basketball, Mary Moody-Bumgarner, assistant coach cheer and bus driver, Mike Ramos, head coach boys basketball; at CVES, Heather Burton, head coach girls basketball, Will Church, head coach boys basketball, Reanna Lehman, assistant coach girls basketball, Mark Thompson, assistant coach boys basketball, Jordyn White, head coach cheer; at SCES, Amy Coggins, assistant coach girls basketball, Janet Davis, head coach cheer; at SMHS, Marissa Ellsworth, assistant coach JV women’s basketball, Brittany Lester, head coach men’s cross country; Blue Ridge Early College, Cristian Mireles, head coach varsity boys basketball and head coach middle school soccer.