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Carrboro High School teacher selected as Beginning Teacher of the Year finalist

20240117_Robinson_city-Samantha-Shaw-1.jpg
Photo Courtesy of the UNC School of Education.

Samantha Shaw, an English teacher at Carrboro High School, is a finalist for the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching's 2024 Beginning Teacher of the Year Award, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools announced earlier this month.

The award is given to a beginning teacher who shows promise as an education leader in N.C. public and charter schools. The winner receives prizes including $5,000 and instructional supply funds for their school.

Shaw’s passion for teaching began when she served as an assistant teacher at the Washington Journalism and Media Conference, she said.

“I get to mentor these kids who care about something and want to change the world,” Shaw said. “What could be more beautiful than helping students find their voice? What could be more wonderful than working with brilliant young people to change the world, make a difference.” 

Shaw attended Salem College for two years and transferred to UNC because of its Master of Arts in Teaching program. She said without the program and its professors, she would not be the teacher she is today. Shaw added that the program gave her a lifelong love of shaping students’ perspectives on learning.

Raquel Harris, an English and creative writing teacher at Carrboro High School, said Shaw has an ability to be loving and firm with students while also setting boundaries and structures that feel safe.

“The kids just adore her and want to please her, so they're constantly working to the best of their ability just because she's such an inspiration to be around,” Harris said.

When Shaw walks into the classroom, she said she feels like it is her responsibility to enter with a sense of love for her students and what she teaches. She said love is not just about accepting students for who they are, but also pushing them to be the best version of themselves.

One of her goals, she said, is to make her lessons more learning-focused so her students meet standards, but do it in a way that feels authentic.

“As I reflect, and work on being the best teacher I can be, one of the questions I always think through is, ‘Did that lesson teach students to love the content?’” she said. “'Did they do it because they wanted to learn? Or, did they do it because it was compliance-based? Did they do it because Ms. Shaw said so?' And I never want it to be the last one.”

Shaw is also the leader of the JagWire, a journalism club at Carrboro High School, and the student government advisor. Harris said Shaw is planning to turn the JagWire into a formal journalism class.

Harris said that even though Carrboro High School is the smallest of the three high schools in the district, Shaw is always finding ways to exemplify the best that the school has to offer and makes sure that the students have plenty of outreach.

Stefan Klakovich, an environmental science teacher at Carrboro High School, said Shaw prioritizes her work-life balance, and that she has inspired him to do the same. He also said he knows Shaw will do something amazing for the future of education.

“She's passionate, and every year I see her trying new things," he said. "She's not going to be satisfied just being a teacher.”

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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