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English teacher Mary Kent Whitaker of Watauga High School has been chosen as the Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year for 2014-15.

Photo by Allison Haver

Originally published: 2014-05-16 12:08:53
Last modified: 2014-05-16 12:09:38

Whitaker named WCS teacher of the year

by Allison Haver

Mary Kent Whitaker has been named Watauga County Schools Teacher of the Year.

In a surprise visit to Watauga High School on Friday, WCS Interim Superintendent David Fonseca, Watauga County Board of Education member Barbara Kinsey, Watauga High School Principal Marshall Gasperson, Whitaker's husband Whit Whitaker, Human Resources Director Stephen Martin, and several additional representatives from the Watauga County Schools central office congregated in Whitakers classroom to congratulate her.

"We are so proud of you and we are glad your husband can join you as well as the team and that this is happening in front of your students," Fonseca said. 

Whitaker said she was very honored to have been chosen and that she could not have done it without her students.

Kinsey, who is a former professional colleague of Whitaker's  said she was an amazing teacher and a good friend.

"With Watauga County Schools, we know we have a great school district made up of great students and wonderful teachers," said Martin.

"We are very proud of all our teachers, but especially now Mrs. Whitaker today with this special award," he said.

This is Whitaker's second time being honored as WCS Teacher of the Year. She is the first two-time winner in the history of the Watauga County Schools. 

Her previous title as WCS Teacher of the Year was for the 2010-11 school year. 

Whitaker succeeds current WCS Teacher of the Year Gina Holste, a third grade teacher at Valle Crucis. 

For 38 years, including ten years at Watauga High School and four years at Hardin Park School Whitaker has taught students.

She completed both a bachelor's degree and a master's degree at Appalachian State University and has achieved National Board Certification, the highest professional credential available in the teaching profession.

One component of the selection process for Teacher of the Year is a statement of teaching philosophy.  In her statement, Whitaker identified the traits that characterize a distinguished teacher. 

Among the traits she mentions are the "facilitation of critical, higher-level thinking in the classroom," "making connections between course materials and the world in which students live," and being a teacher who is "always learning and who demonstrates this to her students."

The 2014-15 Teachers of the Year at the other eight schools in the WCS system include Melissa Miller of Bethel, Janet Orr of Blowing Rock, Cynthia Townsend of Cove Creek, Kirbi Bell of Green Valley, Erin Selle of Hardin Park, Lauren Dotson of Mabel, Susan Suddreth of Parkway, and Leslie Howser of Valle Crucis. 

Teachers in all grade levels and subjects are eligible for the award and the nine Teachers of the Year are selected from a pool of close to 400 teachers in the WCS system.

Each school's Teacher of the Year receives an award of $350 from the school system.  As WCS Teacher of the Year, Whitaker will receive an additional $350 payment.   


The selection process for the Teacher of the Year includes interviews, unannounced teacher observations in classrooms, and a review of the written statement of teaching philosophy prepared by each candidate.