UNCP grad Brian Freeman wins NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence


Brian FreemanWASHINGTON, D.C. - One day second grade teacher Tommy O'Briant (Brian) Freeman II played the Nutty Professor, and another day he played Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother.

Freeman, who works at Peterson Elementary School in Red Springs, is the recipient of the National Education Association's (NEA) 2003 NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence. The NEA is the nation's largest teacher association.

The award was presented at the 9th Annual Salute to Excellence in Education Gala that was held on December 11 in Washington, DC. The prize was worth $25,000.

A 1992 graduate of UNC Pembroke, Freeman challenges his second graders to learn while he creates magical, high-energy settings.

"I will do whatever it takes to make sure my students are inspired to learn and challenged to excel," he said.

Freeman designs his classroom activities to reach students' learning styles. Any one lesson may involve reading, drawing, singing, writing and even dancing salsa steps.

He has received several awards for outstanding achievement and community involvement, including the 2002 National SDE (Staff Development for Educators) Second Grade Teacher of the Year. For this award, his students designed a homemade quilt depicting symbols from their hometown, county and state for First Lady Easley. The quilt is now on loan to the North Carolina Museum of History.

Freeman was also District Teacher of the Year, a state finalist honor for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, and he won North Carolina's Jiffy Lube Teaching Excellence Award. He was listed as one of the top 40 teachers in the nation by USA Today two times.

"The most important role a teacher plays in the community is that of ambassador for public education," Freeman said. "I owe my success as a classroom teacher and leader to the NEA and its affiliates."

A former president and two-term treasurer of the Robeson Association of Educators, Freeman was awarded NCAE's highest honor, the Terry Sanford Award for Creativity in Teaching and Administration. He is also a town commissioner in Red Springs.


  • Jamie Darian Brown, a 1998 graduate, was recently voted Teacher of the Year at North Moore High School, where he teaches language arts and writing. He received $2,100 and a laptop computer. Brown earned his National Board Certification in 2003.
  • Tracie Taylor, a 1992 graduate, was named N.C. High School Girl's Basketball Coach of the Year. Taylor is a former standout player for UNCP. She is the girl's basketball coach at 71st High School in Fayetteville, which won the 2003 state championship.
  • Kay Thompson, a 1989 graduate, was named Teacher of the Year for Brunswick County. She teaches fifth grade at Waccamaw Elementary School. She began teaching 15 years ago.
  • Felicia Hunt, a 1988 graduate and teacher at Purnell Swett High School, was named Robeson County's Teacher of the Year for 2003-2004. Hunt has been a marketing teacher since 1995.
  • John D. Bryant, a 1985 UNCP graduate, earned National Board Certification in Young Adult Science/Chemistry in 2002. He is the only National Board Certified teacher in the Richmond County Schools.