First Posted: 10/10/2009
Even through sickness, Carol Ann McAtee has continued to pursue her love for students and teaching. Now her perseverance and passion has helped her earn the Exceptional Children Teacher of Excellence Award.
McAtee had to leave work in January to undergo chemotherapy as she battled breast cancer. She still has monthly treatments. But despite the physical challenges, McAtee continues to teach her classroom of exceptional children at J.J. Jones Intermediate School.
I enjoy my job. I love teaching the kids. Its so rewarding to me. I guess Im just a go-getter. I cant stand sitting at home and doing nothing, McAtee said.
On Sept. 29, McAtee was rewarded for her perseverance. School leaders surprised her in her classroom with the news that Mount Airy City Schools had nominated her for the Exceptional Children Teacher of Excellence Award.
I was very surprised and excited … I never thought I would get it, McAtee remarked.
Cindy Perry, exceptional children compliance specialist with Mount Airy City Schools, said the school system hasnt nominated anyone for this statewide award in several years. She said McAtee was chosen as the nominee based on her high performance as a teacher and her passion for her students.
We felt like it was time to recognize one of our teachers for going the extra mile. She works above and beyond, even with the sickness, Perry said.
McAtee left school on Jan. 21 for surgery. After the surgery, she found out that she would have to have chemotherapy and wouldnt be able to teach for a while.
It was awful, boring, and I missed the kids. I missed being here, said McAtee.
On the days that she was able, McAtee would still come by the school to eat lunch with her students. At the beginning of the school year, she was finally able to come back to teach her class. The teacher said the severe cancer treatments are over now. Her monthly treatments are milder and dont make her sick.
McAtee does get tired a lot, but she said, I just have to pace myself.
But although McAtee is still undergoing cancer treatments, she has only had to miss one day of school so far this year.
That shows you how much she cares about these students, remarked Chad Beasley, principal of Jones Intermediate.
He said, I planned on her coming back the whole time. It would have been a huge loss if she hadnt come back.
Perry said, It speaks highly of her character. Shes very determined and very passionate about her students.
McAtee began to pursue her love of teaching in 1982. At the time, she only had a high school diploma, but her mother-in-law encouraged her to go back to school to get her teaching degree. So McAtee graduated from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in 1986 with a bachelors degree in elementary education.
She eventually came down to North Carolina at the insistence of her brother who lived in King. She began teaching for Crossroads Behavioral Services, and that is where she discovered her passion for teaching children with special needs. McAtee went on to get her cross-categorical certification to teach exceptional children. She has been teaching with Mount Airy City Schools for the past 15 years.
Theres a lot of misconceptions, only because of the people being afraid of what they dont know. These kids are great kids. They just need more time, McAtee explained of the students labeled as exceptional children.
McAtees class is a cross-categorical class. She teaches all subjects to a classroom of third, fourth and fifth graders with severe to mild learning disabilities. She said her two assistants help her group the students according to ability while still making sure to teach them the North Carolina standards.
Our goal is to get them back into the regular classroom, explained McAtee.
Principal Beasley said, She teaches the standard courses of study. She expects a lot from them, she just uses different methods of teaching.
McAtee thinks that it may be her structure and variety of teaching styles that led to her being nominated for the Teacher of Excellence Award.
I have a very structured classroom, she said. The children in here are getting everything they need. A lot of one-on-one time, good use of technology.
In the letter nominating McAtee for the award, Dr. Darrin Hartness, superintendent for Mount Airy City Schools, and Vickie Cameron, executive director of curriculum and instruction, said, Mrs. McAtee is a creative and innovative teacher. She uses a wide range of teaching strategies to reach the diverse needs of her students. She uses technology to enhance the learning of her students. Her classroom is a busy place where learning is always taking place.
The teacher said she also has a lot of patience, which she feels is crucial for teaching children. Beasley also recognizes McAtees patience.
Shes one of the most patient ladies Ive ever met. Thats what makes her so good at her job. And she treats these kids just like theyre her kids. She wants them to be as successful as they can be.
McAtee will travel to Greensboro for the EC conference on Nov. 2 and 3. There she will be recognized for her nomination. The state will then announce the winner of the North Carolina award.
I would like to win it, but theres so many good teachers out there, McAtee said.
In Surry County, leaders definitely look at McAtee as a good teacher.
Shes a great lady, Beasley said. She is a dedicated employee. She is respected by her other teachers.
McAtee said she will continue to stay dedicated to her job for as long as she can.
Why do I keep teaching? Because I love it. Im definitely not ready to retire. I love waking up in the morning and coming to work, she said.
Contact Meghann Evans at [email protected] or at 719-1952.