MONROE – Union County Public Schools recognized Dareion Malone, of Marvin Ridge High School, as the district’s Teacher of the Year during a virtual meeting on May 6.
Malone thanked his creator, family and staff at Marvin Ridge High School.
“As a music educator, I am so very fortunate and often times, I fall in the minority within my discipline in that I not only have an administrative team that supports the arts, but they are also advocates for the arts,” Malone said.
Malone honored the memory of his grandmother, who was a sharecropper with a permanent indentation in her shoulder from carrying bags of cotton. She was also a retired school cafeteria worker.
“She was the one who drove me to and paid for my piano lessons as a kid,” Malone said. “It was her sacrifice that placed me on this path of leadership and music of now more than 30 years.”
Malone also had a special message to the 180 choral students he is teaching this year.
“You’re the reason that I make a conscious decision to be the best version of myself,” he said, “Your kindness, your generosity, your thoughtfulness – it repeatedly strengthens my faith in humanity. Thank you all for making me a better person.”
Malone won $1,000 from the Union County Education Foundation. He’ll represent UCPS is the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s regional competition and potentially state competition.
UCPS interviews Teacher of the Year winners from each of its 53 schools, whittling the pool down to 20 candidates. Judges evaluate portfolios to help narrow that group down to 10 finalists. Judges then observe finalists in the classroom.
Other finalists for UCPS Teacher of the Year were as follows:
• Cuthbertson High: Lindsey Weycker
• HSA at Monroe Middle: Coleen Owens
• Piedmont High: Tiffany Medford
• Prospect Elementary: Ashley Puscheck
• Sandy Ridge Elementary: Christina Worrall
• Sardis Elementary: Erika Murray
• Stallings Elementary: Kimberly Castner
• Weddington Middle: Jenna Sweet
• Western Union Elementary: Martin Hughes
Superintendent Andrew Houlihan said UCPS typically recognizes finalists during a banquet, but the district had to
improvise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Houlihan announced the winner via a 30-minute Zoom call.
“I’m very, very sad we were not able to have that live in person,” Houlihan said. “Our senior staff, our board, we all thought it was going to be important to have some kind of ceremony, some kind of announcement.”
Melissa Merrell, who chairs the UCPS school board, congratulated the 53 winners across the district and told finalists that their efforts to engage students on Twitter and Zoom don’t go unnoticed.
“As odd as it may seem, COVID-19 has allowed each of us a window into your world – to see your enthusiasm, your passion and your creativity,” Merrell said. “Please know that we see you, we miss you and you inspire us. We could not be more proud of our UCPS teachers.”