North Carolina Teacher Project

Credit Keith Weston / WUNC

Same-sex married couple
Reema Khrais

The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) awarded WUNC  with an impressive six Edward R. Murrow Awards on Thursday. The Murrow Awards honor outstanding achievement in electronic journalism. This is the fifth year in a row WUNC has received regional awards.

Six is the most Murrow Awards awarded by any large market radio station this year. WUNC led its market with awards for a large market radio station. The 2015 regional winners include: 

Breaking News

More than 300 teachers across the state have participated so far in our #TeachingInNC project.  It's where we ask teachers to give us a snapshot of their lives, using words or pictures. We hope that, collectively, these snippets will give "the rest of us" a sense of what it's like to be a teacher in NC. 

Most teachers are sending in their snapshots via Twitter, but some are using Instagram. This one made us laugh.

That same teacher also submitted this:

>>Browse all 701+ submissions here.

school nurse
NC Parents Advocating For School Health

Teri Saurer is a parent, and like any parent she got a little anxious a few years ago when her daughter, Hannah, was about to head off to kindergarten.

“Hannah had a prior history of epilepsy and she now has life-threatening food allergies,” Saurer explains. “I was very concerned sending her to school. So I looked into the nurse situation and I was very surprised to find out that there was not a nurse in her school every day.”

The school is located along state highway 150 in Guilford County.
Jeff Tiberii

One of the nation's oldest military schools is located just a few miles northwest of Greensboro. Oak Ridge Military Academy recently began its 163rd academic year. However, for a time it looked as though the school was going to close. In the face of growing competition, low enrollment and unstable leadership, the academy changed course.  And for now Oak Ridge marches on.

This week North Carolina Public Radio is looking at school communities. This is the fourth installment of a five-part series.

Teachers and supporters carried heavy cardboard boxes of petition signatures calling lawmakers to raise the teacher pay to the national average.
Reema Khrais

College pennants hang from every open space in Chuck Hennessee’s classroom at Culbreth Middle School in Chapel Hill. He’s even strung some up on clotheslines from one side of the room to the other, so you have to duck to avoid them. But for Hennessee, it’s been a few years since his own graduation.

“I am a better teacher in my 29th year now than I was in my 25th and much better than I was in my 20th, my tenth, and it doesn’t even compare to my fifth and first year,” says Hennessee.


It’s probably not much of a surprise to learn that the car line to drop off new students and all their stuff at the North Carolina School of Science and Math runs like a well-oiled machine.

Vans and cars, loaded with suitcases and boxes, pull into the temporary unloading zone. When they stop, senior students in blue t-shirts descend on the cars, unload them, mark the correct rooms, and off they go, on hand trucks and trolleys. An entire car unloaded in a few minutes.


The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching was one of the winners in the most recent state budget. The publicly-funded professional development program for teachers had been slated for closure in both the Senate and Governor’s preliminary budgets in recent years.

The final version of this year’s budget allocates $3.1 million dollars a year in recurring funding for the NCCAT.

Jim Potter
Dave DeWitt

This is The Year of the Teacher, a documentary from North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC looking back at an extraordinary year in public education in the state.

Just before lunch, the kids in Jim Potter’s third-grade class are sitting at attention, engaged and enthusiastic. This isn’t his classroom – he’s doing his student teaching here at Lockhart Elementary in Wake County – but it sure seems like it. His energy is up, the kids are with him, and the minutes fly by.

Interactive county map with Wake County highlighted
Keith Weston

Even the most informed citizens sometimes lose track of all the chatter that’s going on in the General Assembly. Fights between Republicans and Democrats, the Governor and fellow Republicans, teachers and legislators – at some point, for even the most insatiable news junkie, it devolves into just so much noise.

Senate Leader Phil Berger takes an impromptu meeting with Moral Monday protesters.
Reema Khrais

Monday night, 15 Moral Monday protesters sat in front of Senate Leader Phil Berger’s door.  Berger wasn't in his office, so the protesters sat there until the Senate session ended. Soon, State Capitol Police began to usher everyone out. They said that the building was closing, everyone had to leave. Reporter Dave DeWitt was with the protesters. He wrote about what happened next this way:

Phil Berger
Dave DeWitt

Bryan Proffitt fully expected to go to jail Monday night. He spent most of the day at Hillside High School, where he teaches history, proctoring exams. A few hours after the final school bell, he was in an upstairs auditorium at the state Legislature, rallying supporters.

“We’re generally a pleasant and rule-following bunch,” he said. “But when you attack our students, when you threaten our schools and our communities and their families and you bully us and our co-workers, than you’d better prepare for what happens next.”

Students at McDougle Elementary.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

  The House passed a bill on Wednesday that moves the state closer to getting rid of the Common Core standards.

The bill would form a commission to rewrite the standards over the next year, according to legislators, though they could not offer a clear timetable of when they would be implemented in classrooms. They say students would still learn under Common Core until new standards are in place. 

Troops To Teachers
Dave DeWitt

Stephen Harrington is proud of his school, and rightfully so. Holly Grove Middle School is a gleaming facility, with well-manicured sports fields; clean, bright hallways, and even tidy lockers.

Harrington is an Assistant Principal here, and assistant principals - as anyone in education will tell you - are the unheralded heroes of any school. They have a wide variety of tasks, from recruiting teachers to running an efficient car line to helping kids who are having discipline problems.

Northern High School senior Mercy Mensah and athletic trainer Ken "Doc" Brown
Will Michaels / WUNC

WUNC is in the midst of a yearlong examination of what it's like to be an educator, called the North Carolina Teacher Project. This week, we're returning to the My Teacher series, exploring what it takes to make a connection in the classroom by asking students to interview their teachers.

'Through Your Class, I Found Something That I Actually Really Care About'

May 22, 2014
Carrboro High School junior Anna Knotek, history teacher Matthew Cone, and junior Maddie Macmillan
Will Michaels / WUNC

WUNC is in the midst of a yearlong examination of what it's like to be an educator, called the North Carolina Teacher Project. This week, we're returning to the My Teacher series, exploring what it takes to make a connection in the classroom by asking students to interview their teachers.

WUNC is in the midst of a yearlong examination of what it's like to be an educator, called the North Carolina Teacher Project. This week, we're returning to the My Teacher series, exploring what it takes to make a connection in the classroom by asking students to interview their teachers.

Junior Sarah Morrison says her veteran English teacher Nancy Duffner pushed her to be a better writer and dig deeper for her stories about current events. Mrs. Duffner has been around long enough to witness district consolidation and the changing demographics in northern Durham.

'We Sometimes Refer To You As Our Second Mother'

May 20, 2014
Chapel Hill High School Japanese teacher Yoshimi Aoyagi and senior Nell Ovitt
Will Michaels / WUNC

WUNC is in the midst of a yearlong examination of what it's like to be an educator, called the North Carolina Teacher Project. This week, we're returning to the My Teacher series, exploring what it takes to make a connection in the classroom by asking students to interview their teachers.

WUNC's My Teacher series continues at Chapel Hill High School, where Nell Ovitt is a senior. Nell's Japanese teacher Yoshimi Aoyagi gave her the opportunity to study in Japan during high school, and host a Japanese student at home.

Dave DeWitt

In the back corner of Stephen Elrod’s third-grade classroom, a man is lurking who wants to take the children’s money. He’s not a real man, and it’s not real money. It’s a large cartoon drawing of a maniacal character clutching fistfuls of dollars. A plastic bin is attached to the wall below the picture, filled with play money.

“Every time we take a test like Case 21 or EOG we either give him money or we keep our money,” explains Joanne, one of the students. “And, if we don’t make our goal, we have to give him some money, and if we do make our goal, we get to keep our money.”

Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Last week, Sarah Wiles, a science teacher in the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Schools with a master's degree and six years' experience, sent an email to every member of the North Carolina General Assembly with the subject line: “I am embarrassed to confess: I am a teacher.” That email is below.

Monday morning, Sen. David Curtis, a Republican from Denver, NC, replied (actually “reply all” as it went to every member of the General Assembly.) And it’s a message that is sure to get some attention from public-school advocates.

Here’s what he had to say:

Pat McCrory
Reema Khrais

Governor Pat McCrory announced Wednesday that he intends to give all teachers a two percent raise this year. He also set out a long-term plan to overhaul the way North Carolina's teachers are paid. 

His proposal would reward teachers based on their experience, performance and credentials. Teachers in hard-to-staff schools or subjects would also receive extra pay. Governor McCrory gave details about the plan at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro earlier today. 

Seamus smiling
mom Billie Lanigan

There's an 8-year-old boy in Fayetteville who gets worried, anxious and even angry when it comes time for testing. A middle schooler in Vass combats headaches and sleeplessness the night before a test. A 10-year-old boy in Mebane worries that he won't move on to the next grade. These are some of the stories that we heard from WUNC listeners when we posed a simple challenge online: "Kids and Testing: Tell us Your Story."

Seamus' Story

Students at McDougle Elementary.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

A Superior Court judge on Wednesday halted a mandate that  requires North Carolina school districts to reward their top teachers with multi-year contracts in exchange for giving up tenure.

Guilford County and Durham Public School leaders filed a lawsuit against the new mandate earlier this year, calling it unconstitutional.  The judge issued a  preliminary injunction, which means the two school systems do not have to follow the mandate while the case is being decided.

What is teaching to you? Can you say it in 6 words?

We breathe each day to grow.
by Ms Moffett in Room1 at Benchmark school

I’m an educator, not content deliverer.
by Sarah Cacicio

Standardized tests do not define us
by 4th Grade Writing at Little Cypress Intermediate

Jerry Tillman
Dave DeWitt

Maybe it’s the name. A “Task Force” conjures up an image of a group of people rushing in, grabbing a problem around the neck, and wrestling a solution out of it.

Any notion that that might happen with the Educator Effectiveness and Compensation Task Force was doused with cold water by co-chair Rob Bryan when he presented the group’s final report.

Teacher of the Year sign
Dave DeWitt

This is an issue with way more than just two sides. To illustrate how convoluted and complicated paying teachers has become, consider this fairly simple argument from Terry Stoops, the Director of Education Studies at the conservative John Locke Foundation:

“Frankly it’s unfair to our highest-performing teachers,” Stoops says. “There’s no reason why the Teacher of the Year in North Carolina should make as much as any other teacher.”

Now here’s an actual, real life North Carolina Teacher of the Year, who, in a free market, would get paid more: