Maureen M. Stover, a science teacher at Cumberland International Early College High School, was named the 2020 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year during an awards luncheon today held outside a Cary hotel with a small group of attendees. Stover was selected from a field of nine finalists representing the state’s eight education districts and charter schools.
A former intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force, Stover began her teaching career 11 years ago in Florida through the federal Troops to Teachers program. Stover has been teaching Biology, Earth and Environmental Science and AVID for the last three years at the early college in Fayetteville, where she holds a number of leadership roles.
Known to her students as the “Science Mom,” Stover says that her students understand that her commitment to them extends beyond the 90 minutes of classroom instruction each day.
“My students are my ikigai,” she said to begin her Teacher of the Year submission. “In the Japanese culture, ikigai means life’s purpose. My ikigai is helping my students develop academically, socially and emotionally as they transition from adolescence into adulthood. … I have found that one of the most important parts of being a teacher is the relationships I form with my students.”
Beyond helping students achieve academic success, Stover said, “my role as a classroom teacher is to be part giver of knowledge, part cheerleader, part counselor, part mom, part nurse, and part what my kids need me to be that day.”
State Superintendent Mark Johnson said Stover’s commitment to excellence in teaching and to her students exemplifies the importance of the public service by educators across the state.
“Maureen says that her training and experience in the military ingrained in her the mantra of service before self,” Johnson said. “She proves that every day for her students, who have her as both an excellent teacher and a great role model.”
In his letter recommending Stover’s award nomination, Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Marvin Connelly, Jr., used her own words to make his case. “There is nothing more important than providing outstanding instruction and educational opportunities for students,” Connelly said, quoting from her award submission.
Stover succeeds the 2019 Teacher of the Year, Mariah Morris, then a second-grade teacher at West Pine Elementary School in Pinehurst and who is now Innovation and Special Projects Coordinator for Moore County Schools. The teacher of the year is chosen by a committee of professional educators as well business and community leaders. The state selection committee members are chosen based on their active public record in support of education.
Dr. Lou Muglia, president and CEO of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, said “there is no endeavor more important in our society than recognizing the excellence, supporting the efforts of and providing the resources to our teachers to educate the next generation of scientists, artists, advocates, scholars and leaders.”
Alfred Mays, senior program officer for science education and diversity with the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, said “the foundation looks forward to working very closely with the new Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year and all finalists as they represent the very best in teaching and leadership across the state over the next year.”
With an undergraduate degree in biology from the United States Air Force Academy, Stover has gone on to earn two masters degrees in education, one in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on STEM education from Adams State University in Colorado and another last year in secondary science education from Western Governors University in North Carolina.
She knows that many of her students may opt for careers unrelated to science, but she still wants them to be able to lead and make informed decisions as adults in a world where they’ll interact with science every day for their entire lives.
“I want to ensure that my students are prepared to talk about science, to read about science, to understand science, and to make decisions based on science,” Stover said. “It will be important for each of my students to develop the ability to apply their science knowledge to a variety of situations, from understanding a doctor’s diagnosis to determining the environmental impact of a purchase as simple as a one-time-use water bottle.”
She uses a variety of approaches to teach her students, from reading activities to videos to direct instruction and teacher presentations to podcasts and hands-on learning. She evaluates students with non-traditional performance assessments keyed to students preferred learning styles. For one unit, she said, students worked in pairs to write a song or a poem to demonstrate their understanding of the material. One student played her ukulele; another played her flute.
“Because students had an opportunity to show their knowledge by developing their own project,” Stover said, “they took ownership of the assignment and were excited to demonstrate their knowledge of the concept.”
Yet, she’s also a strong believer in data-driven instruction to personalize her lessons to meet the individual learning needs of her students. During the past three years, Stover worked with her principal to develop a schoolwide initiative that uses various data points to identify at-risk students and provide the support that they need. She leads a professional development effort at her school to help teachers understand and effectively use the EVAAS tool that projects individual student growth and to use other sources of data to assess students’ mastery of standards and objectives. As part of that effort, she also created a data-tracking tool that helps teachers see where students need extra practice, instruction or support.
Out of the classroom, Stover is actively engaged with students and other youth both at school and in the community. She’s the school’s Key Club advisor, Science Olympiad co-coach, Prom Committee co-advisor and a member of the School Improvement Team. Outside of school, she’s a Scouts BSA leader and has led trips to Japan, Norway, Italy and Greece. Most recently, she led a group of a dozen students to the Galapagos Islands.
“Seeing my students experience the world is an amazing gift,” she said.
As with other regional finalists, Stover was first recognized this school year as teacher of the year at his school and district.
As Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year, she will spend the next school year traveling the state as an ambassador for the teaching profession. During her second year of service she will receive the use of a new vehicle, leased from Flow Automotive, LLC, the opportunity to attend a seminar at the NC Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), a mobile device from Lenovo valued at approximately $1,600, an engraved vase, a one-time cash award of $7,500, a trip to the National Teacher of the Year Conference and International Space Camp, and the opportunity to travel abroad through an endowment sponsored by Go Global NC.
Stover also will serve as an advisor to the State Board of Education for two years and as a board member for the NC Public School Forum for one year.
The other regional finalists were:
- West: Dawn Gilchrist, School of Alternatives (Jackson County Public Schools)
- Northwest: Maggie Murphy, Piney Creek School (Alleghany County Schools)
- Southwest: Chad Beam, Burns High School (Cleveland County Schools)
- Triad: Tonya Smith, Elkin High School (Elkin City Schools)
- Sandhills: Maureen Stover, Cumberland International Early College High School, (Cumberland County Schools)
- North Central: Carol Forrest, Long Mill Elementary (Franklin County Schools)
- Northeast: Jeanette Owens, Ocracoke School (Hyde County Schools)
- Southeast: Daniel Scott, Swansboro High School (Onslow County Schools)
- Charter Schools: Ashley Bailey, Roxboro Community School, Roxboro
North Carolina has recognized outstanding teachers through its Teacher of the Year program since 1970. For more information on North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year recognition program, visit the program’s website. You also can follow the North Carolina Teacher of the Year finalists on Twitter at #NCTOYPO