7/5/11 Tyronna Hooker begins year in the spotlight

HEAD OF THE CLASS

Tyronna Hooker throws the first pitch as her son, Kendall, watches at the Burlington Royals’ home opener on June 27 at Burlington Athletic Stadium.

Sam Roberts / Times-News

Tyronna Hooker throws the first pitch as her son, Kendall, watches at the Burlington Royals’ home opener on June 27 at Burlington Athletic Stadium.

Tyronna Hooker begins year in the spotlight
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 7/5/11     
Reprinted with permission.

 Tyronna Hooker’s time as North Carolina Teacher of the Year officially began Friday. With a year ahead of her outside of the classroom and on the road, she spoke that day with the Times-News about her hopes.

 Her platform: Hooker will focus on promoting literacy, though more broadly defined than the traditional concept of reading and writing. Her definition includes ability to use technology and an awareness of what’s going on in different parts of the world.

 Another message she’ll send: She wants to let people know “Education is not broken,” though components of the system need to change. “The public education system is putting forth a valiant effort,” she said.

 Early stages: Things will be slow at first because it’s summer. Hooker threw out the first pitch at the Burlington Royals’ home opener June 27, one of the many honors extended to her before her year of duties got under way. She’s scheduled to speak to a group at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro toward the end of this month. It won’t be long before things pick up — she already has events scheduled as far out as April 2012.

 National competition: Hooker will soon meet with Jennifer Facciolini, the 2010 Teacher of the Year, to find out more about how state winners can advance toward the National Teacher of the Year honor.

 She’s talked with Donna Oliver, the former Cummings High School educator who was state Teacher of the Year in 1986 and national Teacher of the Year in 1987.

 “She has already told me when I begin the national (process) she would support me any way she can,” Hooker said. “I’m excited about having a mentor who knows.”

 Other duties: Hooker will serve for two years as an advisory member of the State Board of Education, giving her input into issues that affect teachers and students throughout the state.

 Perks so far: Hooker volunteered her thankfulness for the treatment she got at Flow Honda in Winston-Salem, which is providing her a car to use during her time as Teacher of the Year.

 Perks on the way: She travels next spring to Denmark for an international education conference.

 Cool clothing: The “Got Hooker? Graham Middle School does” T-shirts that were the brainchild of other teachers at the school.

 Underlying message: Hooker shares her story of being from a non-traditional background and needing extra help in school. A grandmother advocated for her, asking teachers if they were “believers” who felt any child could succeed with the right help.

Having worked in the criminal justice system before teaching, Hooker saw how the absence of a strong education hurt young people’s chances of living productive lives.“I teach to save lives,” she has said.