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NC Teacher of the Year inspires teacher interns

NC TOY visit
Freebird McKinney (center) NC Teacher of the Year is flanked by School of Education faculty Dr. Karen Granger (far left) and Dr. Kay Pitchford

On April 5, School of Education teacher interns were treated to an energetic and motivating visit from the Burroughs-Wellcome Teacher of the Year Freebird McKinney.

McKinney encouraged the interns to create a ‘village’ to provide support and care for their students.

“I was blown away by this room full of passionate and dedicated pre-service educators," said McKinney. “It was evident each of these students was answering the 'CALL' and choosing to serve their communities as 'village teachers'.”

“His energy and enthusiasm were definitely what our interns needed at this point in the semester,” said Dr. Kay Pitchford, UNCP School of Education director of University-School Partnerships and Clinical Practice.

“I'm sure they will take the inspiration they received from his personal story and dedication to his professional mission with them as they create their own ‘villages’ for their students.”

UNCP interns Paul L. Anderson II and Keith Neal said McKinney's talk was inspiring and motivational.

"McKinney reminded me of why I chose to enter the teaching profession - the students who have intrinsic worth and value!"  Neal stated. 

Anderson described the visit as a "great learning and thought-provoking experience that reminded me why we teach."

McKinney was chosen from nine regional finalists from across the state as the 2018 North Carolina Teacher of the Year. 

He graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1998 with bachelor's degrees in anthropology and philosophy. He earned a second bachelor's degree in history in 2004 and a master's degree in education in 2006, both from UNC Greensboro.

He taught at Eastern Guilford High School from 2004-2008 where he served in several leadership positions and initiated the development of new school programs. From 2008-2015, at Grimsley High School, he was the chair of the social studies department, taught in the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs and sponsored student groups. McKinney taught at Williams High School in Alamance-Burlington Schools from 2015-2018. There, he continued to teach AP and IB courses and he developed an IB diploma program and a student leadership academy. He is also a clinical teacher and adjunct faculty member at Elon University.

As the NC Teacher of the Year, McKinney has spent this school year traveling the state to promote the teaching profession. He served as an advisor to the State Board of Education for a two-year term and as a board member for the NC Public School Forum.