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NCCAT 2024 Empower NC Beginning Teacher of the Year Finalists announced

Apple trophies for Teacher of the Year finalists.

Twenty-seven teachers from across North Carolina have been selected as finalists for the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) 2024 Empower NC Beginning Teacher of the Year Award for their dedication, innovation, and ability to inspire students to achieve.

The NCCAT 2024 Empower NC Beginning Teacher of the Year Award process was developed to honor beginning teachers and to retain teachers who show promise as excellent teachers and education leaders in North Carolina public schools and public charter schools. One of these talented educators will be named the 2024 NCCAT Empower NC Beginning Teacher of the Year after being selected by a panel of judges. They will participate in a week for professional development at NCCAT February 12-16, 2024. The award will be presented on February 15, 2024, at the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center on the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.

“NCCAT is thrilled to have the chance to honor this exceptional and worthy group of educators,” said NCCAT Executive Director M. Brock Womble. “Each finalist has demonstrated an unwavering dedication to their practice, and in a short period of time made a profound impact on their students, families, schools, and communities. Thank you to the school districts they come from for their commitment to student success with quality teachers. Any one of them would make North Carolina proud as our 2024 NCCAT Empower NC Beginning Teacher of the Year. My thanks and congratulations to each of our finalists.”

The NCCAT 2024 Empower NC Beginning Teachers of the Year are:

              Bethany Wilson- Ashe County Schools

              Margaret "Maggie" Allen- Asheville City Schools

              Kaitlyn "Katie" Adams- Brunswick County Schools

              Cassidy Upton- Burke County Schools

              John Calabrese- Cabarrus County Schools

              Hannah Creed- Caswell County Schools

              Samantha Shaw- Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools

              Sade' Mangum- Cumberland County Schools

              Danielle "Dani" Fisher- Edenton-Chowan Schools

              Halaina Montoya- Envision Science Academy

              Kenyona "Ken" Bethea- Guilford County Schools

              Abigail "Abby" Bentley- Haywood County Schools

              Lauren Schneider- Henderson County Schools

              Laura Jones- Hoke County Schools

              Savannah Travis- Lincoln County Schools

              Megan Strong- Montgomery County Schools

              Nicholas "Nick" Tirpak- Mount Airy City Schools

              Madison Ayers- New Hanover County Schools

              Allyson Sarnowski- Northeast Academy for Aerospace & Advanced Technologies

              Camryn Story- Pitt County Schools

              Sydney Smith- Roanoke Rapids Schools

              Austin Herlocker- Stanly County Schools

              Alivia Salvagni- The Expedition School

              Karen Dusterberg- Wake County Schools

              Sarah Irick- Wayne County Schools

              Elizabeth Dancy- Wilkes County Schools

              Holly Johnston- Wilson County Schools


The NCCAT Beginning Teacher of the Year will receive:

              $5,000 cash prize

              Participation for the winner in a GoGlobal NC trip in 2025

              Instructional supply funds for the teacher's school

              A piece of fine jewelry from Diamonds Direct

The Runner-up will receive:

              $2,000 cash prize

The Finalists will receive:

              Travel expenses and substitute costs paid for regional finalists to participate at NCCAT.


NCCAT supports teachers and impacts students with high-quality professional development. 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.