Some of the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District’s top educators, support staff and administrators were honored Wednesday as Superintendent Dain Butler and Central Services staff toured the district loaded with gifts from local businesses and golden apple trophies, courtesy of Roanoke Rapids Saving Bank.

The district had to forgo its usual Night of Excellence Banquet due to COVID-19 restrictions and opted to visit schools in a “prize patrol” style caravan, according to a press release.

“All of our honorees represent excellence in education and have worked diligently in different ways to continue to help our students achieve during these unprecedented times,” Butler said.

Belmont Elementary School kindergarten teacher Samantha Baird was chosen to represent the district as the 2021 RRGSD Teacher Ambassador.

“I’m in shock!,” she said. “I think every teacher deserves to be Teacher of the Year after this year. It’s a true honor to represent RRGSD.”

Baird, who has worked in the district for the past six years, is one of the many teacher leaders at her school. It’s not uncommon to see her on the sidelines of her students’ ball games or other events cheering them on.

“There have been a lot of changes this year and we’ve had to adapt due to COVID-19,” she added. “It’s amazing to see my students this year and how much they’ve had to overcome and still show growth in the classroom.”

One teacher from each school was selected as a candidate for the district’s Teacher Ambassador of the Year. They were interviewed by a panel at the district level. Other finalists for Teacher of the Year include Amy Parker, Tess Yeatts, Shelly Rideout, Heidi May and Ryan Stowinsky.

New teacher Ginger Duncan was named the district’s 2021 Beginning Teacher of the Year. Duncan left her job as a respiratory therapist to become a health sciences teacher at RR High School.

“I’m overwhelmed by this award,” she said. “I’ve had lots of support since coming to work here. Of course with any new job there’s a learning curve, but then add in COVID. There are teachers who have been here 20 years and they had to adapt to the many changes. If they can do it, I said to myself, I know I can do it too.”

Other beginning teacher finalists includ Stepanie Floyd, Mallory Barrow, Rachel Rightmyer and Natalee Shearin.

Seven people were nominated for Support Person of the Year. Sara Council who serves as one of the four RRGSD school nurses took the top honor. Colleagues describe Council as relentless in her commitment to students, parents and the community during this past year of COVID mandates.

“I’m grateful for this award and accept it on behalf of all of the RRGSD support staff who have gone above and beyond this year,” she said. “We just show up to work every day and do what we have to do for our students, their families and our school community.”

The other nominees for Support Person of the Year include Devin Terry, Cheryl Carlisle, Anna MacNichol, Johnie Caine and Keisha Moseley.

Longtime RRHS Principal Jeff White was chosen as the district’s Principal of the Year.

“I’m so proud to be accepting this award on behalf of every administrator in this district who has put in the work this past year to do what it takes to serve our students and their families,” White said.

White, along with the Beginning Teacher of the Year and Teacher of the Year will go on to represent RRGSD at the regional level.

Thanks to the following businesses for donating gifts:

• Trafera/Trinity 3: Chromebook for Teacher of the Year

• Halifax Linen: $500 Gift Card for all winners

• Discount Tire of RR: Oil changes for each district winner

• Chick-Fil-A: Gift bags filled with coupons

• Maddrey Insurance Agent Julie Aston: Yellow Jacket flower pot for Teacher of the Year

• New Dixie Oil: $50 gas card and mug for each winner and free Blizzards for all nominees

• Edward Jones Office of Brad Smith: Gift Bag for all winners

• Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau: Gift bag for Teacher of the Year

• Horace Mann Insurance Agent Elizabeth Mouzzan: $100 Gift Card for each winner and all nominees

• Lynch’s Office Supply: Gift basket of school supplies for Teacher of the Year

• WestRock: Summer-themed gift bags for each district winner