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TOY Winner Vows to "Never Stop Being a Student"

2020 was a year of many obstacles; however, Daniel Smith, Cumberland County Schools' (CCS) 2022 Teacher of the Year (TOY), refused to let that affect the potential for connecting with students. With his focus on creating platforms for free thought, fostering channels of open discussion and fine-tuning virtual classrooms as "transmitters of ideas," Smith says, "One of my personal responsibilities as an educator is to never stop being a student."

When faced with the limitations of virtual learning, Smith seized the moment and opened the door to an entire world of opportunities for himself, his students and his peers. As the Social Studies Department Chair at Westover High School, he began a virtual-guest-speaker initiative, bringing Civil Rights Movement experts into the classroom through the screen during Black History Month. He also spearheaded the coordination of Westover student involvement in a "Transcribe-a-Thon." His students worked in conjunction with the Smithsonian National Museum, the National Archives, the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, Fayetteville State University, Cumberland County Public Library and various other CCS high schools.

“I listen to my students; they often have more insight than we give them credit for,” Smith wrote in his TOY nomination portfolio. “Those lessons that I receive from my students have helped me exponentially as an educator at Westover High School... yes, I am a teacher, but my responsibility to my students is to never stop being a student.”

The announcement of Smith as this year’s Teacher of the Year winner was made Monday night during the district’s virtual celebration event, themed: The Great Comeback: Defying All Odds to Educate Each Child.

Smith started his teaching career with Cumberland County Schools in 2014 after graduating from State University of New York (SUNY) at Old Westbury. Throughout his career, he has held many leadership positions, including Social Studies Department chair, School Improvement Team Department Representative, Superintendent's Strategic Plan Development Team Member, Opportunity Culture Team Member, School Leader on Westover High School Voter Registration Drive & NC First Vote and Varsity Baseball Coach.

As CCS' 2022 Teacher of the Year, Smith received:

  • A trophy award, plant and a leather binder from Cumberland County Schools;
  • $300 from the Cumberland County Board of Education (CCBOE);
  • $500 from Olde Fayetteville Insurance and Financial Services, Inc.;
  • $3,000 from Lafayette Ford Lincoln ($1,000 for personal use and $2,000 for use at his school);
  • A commemorative custom-designed CCS’ Teacher of the Year ring from Jostens; and
  • Two season passes to the Fayetteville Marksmen Hockey Games.
Other winners announced Monday night were first runner-up Susan Nazario from John Griffin Middle School, who received a trophy, flowers and leather binder from CCS, $200 from the CCBOE and $300 from Olde Fayetteville Insurance and Financial Services, Inc.; and second runner-up Kuristan Monroe from Lewis Chapel Middle School, who received a trophy, flowers and leather binder from CCS, $100 from the CCBOE and $200 from Olde Fayetteville Insurance and Financial Services, Inc.
The 10 Teacher of the Year Attendance Area finalists were awarded an iPad from CCS and $100 from the CCBOE.
All 87 TOY candidates received $100 and two hours of C.E.U. credit from CCS, a plaque-certificate from the CCBOE and a photo session and professional photos from Lifetouch photography.
As the county-wide winner, Smith will advance to compete for the regional title.
During the virtual celebration, CCS also named Jacob Gordner, a second grade teacher from Cliffdale Elementary School, as the 2022 Beginning Teacher of the Year.
As CCS' 2022 Beginning Teacher of the Year, Gordner will receive:
  • A trophy, plant, leather binder and an iPad from CCS;
  • $200 from Olde Fayetteville Insurance and Financial Services;
  • A photo session and professional photos from Lifetouch;
  • A $100 gift card from School Tools
Gordner will go on to compete in the statewide North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) 2022 Beginning Teacher of the Year Award.
The other winners for the Beginning TOY were first runner-up Lynda Jarmon of E.E. Smith High School and second runner-up Dorothy Howell of Luther "Nick" Jeralds Middle School. The Beginning TOY finalists will receive a plaque-certificate from the Cumberland County Board of Education (CCBOE), $100 from Olde Fayetteville Insurance and Financial Services, Inc., a photo session and professional photos from Lifetouch and a $25 gift card from School Tools.
“This evening, we celebrated excellence in Cumberland County Schools as we announced CCS’ Teacher and Beginning Teacher of the Year,” said CCS Superintendent Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. “I am so incredibly grateful for the outstanding teachers we have in Cumberland County Schools. Every day, they continue to show resilience, creativity, resourcefulness and most of all, dedication to our children, our schools and our community. Tonight’s celebration recognized how our teachers continue to defy the odds to educate each child, despite challenging circumstances.”
CCS is thankful for the generous participation of event sponsors Olde Fayetteville Insurance & Financial Services, Inc. and LaFayette Ford Lincoln.
To view an encore of the virtual celebration, visit the district's YouTube channel.

2022 TOY Daniel Smith Westover High School2022 BTOY Jacob Gordner Cliffdale Elementary School