Regional Teacher of the Year values NCCAT experience | NCCAT

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Regional Teacher of the Year values NCCAT experience

2021 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Sandhills Regional Teacher of the Year Nicole Rivers (right) talks with Dr. Natalie Boone, Assistant Professor and PETE Coordinator Mar Hills University and NCCAT presenter, during "The Physically Active Academic Classroom" program in Cullowhee. Rivers has attended multiple NCCAT programs.

Nicole Rivers is a 15-year veteran educator who has regularly attended professional development courses at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. The 2021 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Sandhills Regional Teacher of the Year does not hesitate when asked what she would tell North Carolina teachers about attending NCCAT.

"I would say go!" Rivers said. "I would say it without any hesitation. Everything is top-notch and they make it easy to attend. I won a scholarship before and those are available. Don't let anything stop you from taking this brave adventure because you will come back enriched. After my first time, I knew I wanted to come back again and again. I have and it has been a huge help for me in my teaching career."

Rivers teaches ninth and 10th grade English at Gray's Creek High School in Cumberland County Schools. She first heard of NCCAT her first year in the classroom.

"My principal suggested NCCAT and I'm so thankful," Rivers said. "I was and continue to be amazed at the professional development. Every time I would see an email of courses after that, I would see something that applies to my classroom that I can bring back to students. I would apply and I have never been disappointed. It is always relevant and builds relationships with other teachers that are so valuable."

Rivers' most recent NCCAT experience was "The Physically Active Academic Classroom" in Cullowhee on May 24-27. Teachers learned a variety of strategies for integrating instruction with physical activity, but not at the expense of intellectual rigor. Armed with a collection of techniques they can use immediately, design and create their own physically and mentally active lessons.

 "This has been out of my comfort zone," she said with a smile. "I am not a naturally athletic person. I noticed, especially with virtual learning, there was a great deal of sitting in the classroom. I wanted to add movement for my students. I saw the email about this program, and it was exactly what I was looking for. It has been an awesome experience with so many ideas to help in my classroom."

 Rivers, a graduate of Fayetteville State University, will be returning to NCCAT before the school year in July.  Regional Teachers of the Year and Teacher of the Year Eugenia Floyd, a fourth-grade teacher at Mary Scroggs Elementary in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and NCCAT alum, will experience a week of professional development at the Ocracoke campus.

"Being Regional Teacher of the Year in the Sandhills region has been an exciting journey," Rivers said. "It is just that – a journey. It has been rewarding. I have met amazing people. It is helping me grow and become a better educator."

A high school counselor helped Rivers realize teaching as a career path and she is thankful it has allowed her to use her natural gifts to make a lasting impact on society. Cumberland County Schools noted about her: "From creative assignments requiring students to think outside of the box, to starting a poetry club to give students a voice, Rivers goes above and beyond to form authentic connections while ensuring her students' education transcends the classroom."

Rivers wrote about why she is a teacher in her TOY nomination portfolio: "My job as an educator is not to just get what I deem as valuable information into the minds of my students. It is not just to show students how the words of others impact them, but how to effectively and responsibly use their words to change the world around them. So, when I see students from every level of capability do so, I feel I have done what I have been called to do: teach."



Increasing teacher effectiveness is fundamental to improving public education. NCCAT provides teachers with new knowledge, skills, teaching methods, best practices and information to take back to their classrooms. For more information about NCCAT’s professional development programs, visit or call 828-293-5202.

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