Teacher of Year shows lots of enthusiasm

Published 10:27 am Thursday, March 12, 2015

By Beth Cassidy

Enterprise Record

Here’s one reason Amy Stokes is the 2014-15 Teacher of the Year: she admits her singing voice is far from perfect, yet she doesn’t hesitate to sing loudly in front of two students, a reporter and a photographer, just to teach about theme and finding the central message.

Stokes knows using a current song, something students can relate to, is one of the most effective methods to help students grasp the curriculum. Judging by her boundless energy and enthusiasm, it’s easy to imagine if standing on her head was another effective method, she’d do that, too.

As a young child, Stokes couldn’t wait to start kindergarten at Cooleemee Elementary. The daughter of David and Betsy McCray, Stokes said when her father decided to get out of the Air Force and away from the constant moves, the family decided to come here because of the school system.

Stokes’ brother, Jason, was a few years ahead of her in school, and Stokes was excited when it was her turn to go. Even from a young age, teaching was a part of her. Two of her aunts were teachers and would pass along their used materials to Stokes, who played with them and dreamed about the day she’d have her own classroom.

She attended South Davie and Davie High and after graduating from Appalachian State University, did her student teaching at Cornatzer the first year the school opened. During that time, she got a call that a teacher at Cooleemee was going out on maternity leave, and the day after her student teaching ended, she started teaching at Cooleemee and has been there ever since.

Stokes has taught at the school the third longest of any current teachers, 14 years. The first few years she taught kindergarten, moving to first grade for about 11 years, and this year is her first year as a reading intervention specialist. Stokes sees about 35 children per day who need extra time learning to read and master comprehension skills. She tries to keep the students up and moving, keep them “engaged,” and at the same time, teach the golden rule.

“They’ll treat each other as you treat them. They have to know you care about them and love them,” she said.

She becomes animated as she talks about curriculum and programs, topics others might find ho-hum, but for Stokes, each day represents a new opportunity to reach someone who really needs her.

“I love the art of teaching someone to read. You have to meet each student where they are and take them where they can go. I’ve always been interested in reading, and it’s just always been my passion. I enjoyed other subjects, math and science, but reading is the core of what you know. You have to get the reading part first in order to grow in everything else you do,” she said.

Her mentor, Kerry Blackwelder, is another reading teacher at Cooleemee, and Stokes calls her a giving person who is willing to share not only her knowledge and materials, but also her handwriting skills. As she points to the charts in her room, she admits she has terrible handwriting, but said with a laugh, “Kerry made all my charts. She can’t stand to see my handwriting.”

Stokes’ passion for her profession is matched only by her passion when talking about her family, her husband Zach and children Blake, 9, Ellie Kate, 21 months, and her “bun in the oven,” as she called it when teaching her students about idioms. Stokes is expecting a daughter, who will be named Emersyn Katherine, due in April but Stokes said since her other two came early, she imagines this one will, too.

When asked if she will return to teaching after their third child comes, Stokes doesn’t hesitate to say yes. She’s fortunate that her mom and mom-in-law share taking care of her children, allowing her to continue the job she feels she was born to have.