Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year

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About the Program

In accordance with national guidelines, North Carolina chooses a candidate who is "dedicated and highly skilled, a candidate proven capable of inspiring students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn." Because the State Teacher of the Year will be asked to travel, speak on behalf of education and demonstrate master teaching skills, the candidate must be poised, articulate, and energetic in order to meet the demanding responsibilities.

The NC Teacher of the Year is recognized at the school, regional, and statewide levels. First, the teacher is chosen to represent their respective school as Teacher of the Year. Similarly, individual public charter schools nominate a Teacher of the Year who participates in a selection process facilitated by the Office of Charter Schools at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Next, once each school district and the charter school nomination processes are completed, the teacher finalists vie as one of the state’s nine Regional Teachers of the Year. [The state is divided into eight geographical regions and NC Charter Schools are clustered together to form the ninth region of the state. The Charter School Teacher of the Year joins the Regional Teachers of the Year team as a finalist for the state Teacher of the Year]. This selection process is facilitated in each region by NC DPI’s Educator Recognition Coordinator.

After a series of relevant screening activities, the State Teacher of the Year is chosen by a committee consisting of professional educators as well as business and community leaders. The state selection committee members are chosen based on their dynamic public record in support of education. The State Teacher of the Year and the other Regional Finalists form a collaborative network to provide services and support throughout the state on critical issues facing public education. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education take pride in celebrating the most innovative and effective public school educators in our state.

Since the inception of the program in North Carolina in 1970, three State Teachers of the Year have become National winners. Five have become National Finalists and one has been inducted into the National Teachers' Hall of Fame.

More Information About the Award

2024 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year

2024 NC Teacher of the Year, Heather Smith

Heather Smith TOY 2024


  • Middle School Math Teacher
  • 7 years of teaching experience
  • Western Carolina University (BA)
  • National Board Certified
  • WCU’s Outstanding Clinical Educator
  • Chair of the Sunshine Committee 
  •  Grade Level Chair