7/5/11 State’s new top teacher gets some words of advice

State’s new top teacher gets some words of advice
Former national award winner offers insight on duties
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 7/5/11     
Reprinted with permission.

Oliver
Oliver

 North Carolina has named a Teacher of the Year every year since 1970.

 That gives Tyronna Hooker, the Graham Middle School teacher who is the state’s current Teacher of the Year, plenty of role models she could turn to for advice and support.

 Two of her predecessors in the role were also from Alamance County. Linda Lee, the 1980 Teacher of the Year, taught English in the former Burlington City Schools. Donna Oliver, another teacher in the Burlington system, was state Teacher of the Year in 1986. She went on to become National Teacher of the Year for 1987.

 Oliver, now president of Mississippi Valley State University, offered insights and advice for Hooker based on her time as state and national teacher of the year.

 What Hooker has to look forward to: “It’s probably going to be the busiest schedule she’s ever had to have in her life. … Get ready to spend a lot of time in a car.”

 There’s plenty of responsibility attached to the honor, Oliver said.

 “I felt as though I represented all of North Carolina’s teachers,” she said. “Certainly, I wanted to represent them in the best light … It’s really not an honor just for you but for the Alamance-Burlington School System staff and for teachers all over.”

 Though she was tired at the end of a lot of days, Oliver said, it was worth it, not just to meet fellow educators and others but to explore the state she loves and plans to return to when she retires.

 “I got to see some areas of North Carolina that I have never seen before,” she said. Her encounters with people reinforced the idea that, “At least in my day, they really do revere teachers. They think it’s a noble profession.”

 How she found out about Hooker’s honor: Oliver’s daughter, former Miss Black America Rachel Oliver-Cobbins, was excited about it and called to tell her.

 Advice she offers Hooker: “Be yourself. Who you are is what got you to this point. Grow, yes. But keep the same heart. Keep the same mindset. Be who you are — 100 percent genuine.”

 More advice: “Try hard not to overextend yourself. As teachers, most of us don’t know how to say ‘No.’” But agreeing to do too many events makes it hard to be at your best at all of them, she said.

 A third piece of advice: “Learn all you can. Unless you go to the national level, which she will probably do, this is going to be the biggest learning laboratory she has ever worked in. Keep a journal … if you don’t keep a journal and keep good notes, you just won’t remember everything.”

 On being National Teacher of the Year: Take being state Teacher of the Year and “multiply that by a hundred times,” with travel all over the United States and to Mexico, Spain and Taiwan.

 What makes Hooker stand out: She’s bright and capable. “More than anything, her heart is in it. You can’t ask for any more in a teacher.” That may give Hooker and Oliver a strong character trait in common — even over the phone, Oliver’s passion is evident as she discusses her experiences and Hooker’s prospects.

 Something else she and Hooker have in common: They know each other as members of the service sorority Delta Sigma Theta.