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2023-2024 Teachers of the Year

Posted on 05/01/2023

Sampson County Schools is pleased to announce its finalists for the Sampson County 2023-2024 Teacher of the Year (TOY). Through a nomination process, each of the 18 Sampson County schools selects a classroom teacher to represent their school as Teacher of the Year. These 18 teachers advanced to the county level. A panel of community members and school personnel reviews and interviews each school’s teacher of the year and selects one of them as the system’s overall Teacher of the Year. 

A Teacher of the Year represents exemplary performance as a member of the teaching staff for Sampson County Schools.  Such performance can be characterized by excellence in the classroom, civic involvement, contributions to the profession of teaching, the possession of positive interpersonal skills, and the demonstration of keen interest in the lives of children and youth.

“All of our Teachers of the Year were awesome during their interviews. Such great things are going on in our classrooms. All teachers shared their passion along with great strategies they are using to emphasize family involvement, incorporating culturally relevant teaching, advice that they would share with others who may want to become a teacher and so much more! Sampson County Schools is blessed to have such dedicated teachers in our classrooms,” said Brenda Nordin, director of teacher support. 

The county-level finalists chosen from the 18 are Amy Bass of Union Elementary, Carol Dyce-Smith of Roseboro-Salemburg Middle, and Leslie Seals of Plain View Elementary. One of these finalists will be announced later in May as the Sampson County Schools 2023-2024 Teacher of the Year. County-level TOYs advance to the regional level, which represents 11 other counties in the Sandhills region. From there, a regional TOY is selected to advance to the state-level TOY.  

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Amy Bass is a kindergarten teacher at Union Elementary School. She began her teaching career in 1999 at Union Elementary and has worked as an art teacher at Clement and Union elementary schools and as a teacher assistant at Union Elementary. Bass has a master’s in elementary education from UNC-W, a bachelor’s in parks and recreation management from UNC-W, and an elementary education certificate from UNC-W. She is a previous WRAL Teacher of the Week and Union Elementary School’s 2021 Shining Star.





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Carol Dyce-Smith is a mathematics teacher at Roseboro-Salemburg Middle School. She is from Jamaica, WI, and is part of The Academic and Cultural Exchange (ACE) program of the Global Teaching Partners, a program for international educators. Dyce-Smith began teaching in Sampson County Schools in 2019, but her teaching career began in 1997 as a high school mathematics teacher in Jamaica, WI. She has also taught at the university level as an adjunct mathematics professor and mathematics professor. Dyce-Smith has a master’s in mathematics education from the University of the West Indies, and a bachelor’s in mathematics from the University of the West Indies. She serves as a grade-level chair at Roseboro-Salemburg.





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Leslie Seals is a 4th-grade mathematics teacher at Plain View Elementary School. She began her teaching career in 2009 at Northeast Elementary in Pinetown, NC. As the wife of a methodist pastor, who is reassigned every few years to a new city, Seals has taught in Dare, Cumberland, Richmond, and Beaufort counties. She was the 2017-2018 Cumberland County Schools Teacher of the Year, a previous WRAL Teacher of the Week, and Q98 Teacher of the Week. At Plain View, Seals serves as a grade-level chair, a member of the school improvement team, and an after-school mathematics tutor. She has a bachelor’s in elementary education from ECU. 






Clement Elementary - Rita Wilson
Hargrove Elementary - Dayna Nemr
Hobbton Elementary - Elouise Phipps
Hobbton Middle - Melissa Ballance
Hobbton High - Janette Williams
Lakewood High - Bridgette Henry
Midway Elementary - Megan Hall
Midway Middle - Kaylan Johnson
Midway High - Kelli Jernigan
Plain View Elementary - Leslie Seals
Roseboro Elementary - Misty Jernigan
Roseboro-Salemburg Middle - Carol Dyce-Smith
Salemburg Elementary - Melissa Stone
Sampson Early College High - Michelle Smoak
Union Elementary - Amy Bass
Union Intermediate - Allison Boyd
Union Middle - Leonie Anderson Whittaker
Union High - Dr. Patricia Boykin-Moore

For over 50 years, our nation has honored teachers with the National Teacher of the Year Program. The National Teacher of the Year Program, sponsored by Voya Financial, Inc., is a project of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Since 1970, North Carolina has participated in this program recognizing outstanding teachers.


In 2013, the NC Department of Public Instruction announced its partnership with Burroughs Wellcome Fund as the new major sponsor of the North Carolina Teacher of the Year Program. The Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) is an independent private foundation dedicated to advancing the biomedical sciences by supporting research and other scientific and educational activities. Within this broad mission, BWF seeks to help scientists early in their careers develop as independent investigators and to advance fields in the biomedical sciences that are undervalued or in need of particular encouragement. BWF was founded in 1955 as the corporate foundation of Burroughs Wellcome Co., the U.S. branch of the Wellcome pharmaceutical enterprise, based in the United Kingdom. In 1993, BWF received a $400 million gift from the Wellcome Trust to become a fully independent foundation.

About the Program

In accordance with national guidelines, North Carolina chooses a candidate who is "dedicated and highly skilled, a candidate proved capable of inspiring students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn." Because the State Teacher of the Year will be asked to travel, speak on behalf of education, and demonstrate master teaching skills, the candidate must be poised, articulate, and energetic in order to meet the demanding responsibilities.

The NC Teacher of the Year is recognized at the school, regional, and statewide levels. First, the teacher is chosen to represent their respective school as Teacher of the Year. Similarly, individual public charter schools nominate a Teacher of the Year who participates in a selection process facilitated by the Office of Charter Schools at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Next, once each school district and the charter school nomination processes are completed, the teacher finalists vie as one of the state’s nine Regional Teachers of the Year. [The state is divided into eight geographical regions and NC Charter Schools are clustered together to form the ninth region of the state. The Charter School Teacher of the Year joins the Regional Teachers of the Year team as a finalist for the state Teacher of the Year]. This selection process is facilitated in each region by Regional Education Facilitators.

After a series of relevant screening activities, the State Teacher of the Year is chosen by a committee consisting of professional educators as well as business and community leaders. The state selection committee members are chosen based on their dynamic public record supporting education. The State Teacher of the Year and the other regional Finalists form a collaborative network to provide services and support throughout the state on critical issues facing public education. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education takes pride in celebrating the most innovative and effective public school educators in our state.