Meet Heather Smith: North Carolina’s 2024 Teacher of the Year

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Math teacher Heather Smith from Haywood County Schools has been announced as the North Carolina Teacher of the Year for 2024. The announcement was made at a ceremony at the Umstead Hotel in Cary, where Smith and eight other regional finalists were honored.

Photo courtesy of North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt praised Smith as a “change agent for public education” and emphasized her focus on real-world application in daily instruction.

Smith has spent her entire career teaching in Haywood County Schools, having taught at Waynesville Middle School since 2019 with previous teaching stints at Canton Middle School and Clyde Elementary School. She is a graduate of Western Carolina University and is a National Board Certified Teacher.

Photo courtesy of Waynesville Middle School via Facebook.

Smith believes in the essential role of positive relationships in the classroom, asserting that students are likely to excel when they feel loved, valued, and held to high expectations. Her focus on positive relationships extends to her fellow educators, parents, and the community. Her approach to teaching, which emphasizes helping students understand the real-world relevance of their lessons, was praised by Haywood County Schools Superintendent Dr. Trevor Putnam, who also highlighted her “excellent pedagogical skills and expertise,” alongside her humility and caring nature.

Throughout the 2024-25 school year, Smith will represent and advocate for North Carolina’s teachers. She will participate in various seminars and conferences, and she will receive a number of awards, including a mobile device from Lenovo, an engraved award, financial support to serve as a liaison for North Carolina Public Schools, a monetary award from Bojangles, and a gift from the Carolina Hunger Initiative. She will also receive recognition during an NC State Athletics football game.

Alongside Smith, eight additional regional Teacher of the Year finalists were also recognized. These include Anita Rubino-Thomas from Currituck County High School, Nardi Routten from Creekside Elementary School, Rachel Brackney from SouthWest Edgecombe High School, Jennifer Blake from Carthage Elementary School, Will Marrs from Davie County High School, Sarah Lefebvre from Health Sciences Academy at Monroe Middle School, and Erik Mortensen from Watauga High School.

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