The nominations were presented to a committee of former teachers of the year and the former principal of the year, who conducted interviews of the nominees before making a selection, Gilbert said.
Napp’s next step is the regional competition in February, from which she would progress to the state finals if she wins.
Napp said she became interested in school administration after she was told she had leadership skills while teaching theater at a school in Durham.
To learn the field, she applied for the N.C. Principal Fellows Program at UNC.
Napp said she was working in administration at another school in 2008 when a principal position opened up at Efland-Cheeks, which is in her neighborhood.
“I always wanted to be principal of a school in my community,” Napp said. “I equally fell in love with the faculty and children there.”
Within a few months of leading Efland-Cheeks, Napp called in Karen Erickson, director of the UNC Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, to develop the reading program Whole 2 Part.
The program trains faculty in helping children with reading comprehension in the third, fourth and fifth grades.
“This initiative has been so successful that we have seen a large increase in our kids’ reading ability,” said the school’s assistant principal Cliff Cotton.
As a result of the program, Efland-Cheeks was able to close the reading achievement gap between black and white fourth-grade students last year, Napp said. Erickson and school faculty members are now developing a similar program for first and second graders.
“My favorite thing about being principal is watching kids grow and flourish and listening to their take on life,” Napp said.
“What I work for constantly is to help children see themselves as learners and generators of knowledge.”
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