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Orange County teacher named NCCAT 2022 Prudential NC Beginning Teacher of the Year

CULLOWHEE – Xavier Adams, an Orange County High School teacher in Orange County Schools, was named the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) 2022 Prudential NC Beginning Teacher of the Year in a special ceremony at the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center on the campus of Western Carolina University Thursday, February 17, 2022.

The award was presented for the third time with finalists from across the state in attendance.

Adams believes investing in relationships with students is the most significant part of his job. His most important piece of advice to beginning teachers – “you are enough.”

“I recognize that many students are often enduring hardships that they might not always share with adults, yet they are still carrying these burdens with them, completing their homework, and trying to find their group in school,” Adams wrote in his application. “I hope they learn that I am here to support them.”

A student shared “through his actions (Mr. Adams) has shown me what it truly means to be a generous, humble, and kind adult. Being his student has made me want to be a better person and learner.”

NCCAT is thankful for the opportunity to celebrate the teaching profession, according to NCCAT Executive Director M. Brock Womble.

"Educators like Mr. Adams embody what it means to be a teacher. Not only is he committed to teaching – he inspires his students to learn,” Womble said. “NCCAT salutes Mr. Adams as well as all the teachers being acknowledged at the NCCAT 2022 Prudential NC Beginning Teacher of the Year Ceremony -- who are dedicated to the education and development of North Carolina’s children. NCCAT is thankful for this opportunity to honor the teaching profession tonight. We appreciate all who made it possible.”

The runner-up is Greene County Middle School Chorus/General Music teacher with Greene County Schools Meghan Chinn.

The other 2022 NCCAT Prudential NC Beginning Teachers of the Year finalists are:

Anson County Schools

Erin Thomas

Ashe County Schools

Charlene Horton

Asheboro City Schools

Keichelle Joyce

Beaufort County Schools

Brianna Genello

Brunswick County Schools

Denise-Marie Copeland

Buncombe County Schools

Anneliese Shreve

Charlotte Lab Charter School

Meghan Dugan

Cleveland County Schools

Ricky Alston, Jr.

Clinton City Schools

Thomas Kweon

Edenton-Chowan Schools

Kaitlyn Smith

Franklin County Schools

Rachel McKeithan

Guilford County Schools

Minh McNicholas

Harnett County Schools

Jenae Dwornicki

Lee County Schools

Riley Sullivan

McDowell County Schools

Nicholas Reller

Mount Airy City Schools

Candice Fenton-Haynes

New Hanover County Schools

Rachel Norfleet

Newton-Conover City Schools

Kayleigh Spivey

Pitt County Schools

Ashley Parmley

Socrates Academy

Jackson Barkley

Southern Wake Academy

David Witkowski

Stanly County Schools

Casey Thompson

Transylvania County Schools

Ashlee O'Dwyer

Wake County Public Schools

Zoe Grove

Wilkes County Schools

Brooke Bentley


Guest speakers for the evening included Eugenia Floyd, North Carolina 2021 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Teacher of the Year; and Julie Pittman, Assistant to NCDPI Superintendent: Educator Engagement. The NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year process was developed to honor beginning teachers who are the future of education in North Carolina.  Information about the program is online at


The NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year will receive:

$5,000 cash prize

Participation for the winner in a GoGlobal NC trip in 2023

Instructional supply funds for the teacher's school

A piece of fine jewelry from Diamonds Direct

Runner-up will receive:

$2,000 cash prize

Finalists received:

Travel expenses and substitute cost for regional finalists to participate in NCCAT professional development and leadership development.



Prudential Retirement


Western Carolina University College of Education and Allied Professions


Dr. and Mrs. Jim and June Causby


Branching Minds

Diamonds Direct


Great Minds

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt



Lexia Learning Systems

Pierce Group Benefits

Scholastic Education Solutions

Schwartz Law PLLC


Appalachian State University Reich College of Education

Campbell Shatley, PLLC

North Carolina State University College of Education

Special Thanks

Steering Committee, Beginning Teacher of the Year

Board of Directors, The Development Foundation of NCCAT, Inc.

NCCAT Board of Trustees