Melissa Faetz, a first grade teacher at South Macon Elementary School was recently named the Region 8 Teacher of the Year. She will now move on for consideration of North Carolina Teacher of the Year, a title most recently held by Karyn Collie Dickerson of Grimsley High School in Guilford County. Dickerson was on location at South Macon to present Faetz with the award on Dec. 19 before the school took its Christmas break.
"Every year the state of North Carolina looks for teachers that define the very best teaching in our state. That teacher is already a leader in their school and in their community. Out of 95,000 teachers in the whole state of North Carolina, one out of the nine finalists is right here in your school," said Dickerson.
Dickerson described Faetz as someone who: Co-workers respect for the way she handles challenges; parents praise for getting their kids excited to go to school; and students adore because she encourages them in their studies.
Faetz is from North Palm Beach, Fla., and moved to Franklin with her family at 10 years old. She attended Union Elementary School, Macon Middle School and Franklin High School. In 2000, she began her college career at Western Carolina University which she attended on a Teaching Fellows Scholarship. After graduating in May 2004, she began to teach that fall at South Macon Elementary School, located just down the road from the building that at one time housed her elementary school. She would later return to WCU to pursue a Master's degree in education. She completed her M.A. Ed. Last May.
She has been married to Tyler Faetz, an English teacher at Franklin High School, for ten years. Together they have twin eight-year-old sons, Patrick and Dominic. The three of them were at the ceremony to show support for Faetz' accomplishments.
Faetz had no idea that she was being named the Region 8 Teacher of the Year. “I knew that I was a finalist. Region 8 includes 16 school districts in Western North Carolina and two of us were named finalists for the region. The committee spent a day at South Macon observing my teaching and interviewing teachers, students, parents, and administrators at the school. At the end of the day, they informed me that they would let me know sometime in January so I was completely shocked to walk into that assembly in December,” she said.
Entering a pool with eight other finalists from eight regions across the state and one region for charter schools, Faetz will be interviewed in Raleigh. In April or May, the N.C. Teacher of the Year will be announced.
“It is an honor to receive this award, but I must say that this is an honor that I have not achieved alone. My teaching at South Macon has grown over the years because of the support and influence of a wonderful team of teachers and administrators,” said Faetz. “I have also been very fortunate to have some influential mentors through the years, especially my professors at Western Carolina University. And above all, my family has provided indispensable support for me through everything.”
In order to be chosen as the region's Teacher of the Year, students' and colleagues' opinions are weighed in the selection process. Superintendent of Macon County Schools Dr. Chris Baldwin's comments reflect the tone that those opinions must have carried.
"Mrs. Faetz' selection as Region 8 Teacher of the Year is a tremendous honor for her and the Macon County School district. She is a caring, dedicated professional teacher and very deserving of this award," he said. "I understand that there are other well qualified candidates, but I believe that Mrs. Faetz has a strong chance of being named N.C. Teacher of the Year."