LEE COUNTY SCHOOLS: Patrice McNeill of SanLee Middle is recipient of Teacher of the Year

May. 07, 2013 @ 09:05 PM

Patrice McNeill, a SanLee Middle School language arts teacher, was named the Teacher of the Year for Lee County Schools. She received an extra day of leave, a $500 check and a $400 gift catalog at the annual awards banquet held Tuesday evening at Lee County High School, and she will be driving a new (and free) car for the next 12 months.

McNeill seemed to be quite touched — and certainly shocked — that she won the award. Her jaw dropped when Supt. Jeff Moss said her name, and she began crying as it sunk in. McNeill gave a short speech, saying she wouldn't be able to talk long without crying again and joking that she speaks better in front of a classroom of children than a conference room full of adults anyway.

"I'm very happy that I get to do things that I love every day," the 20-year veteran of Lee County Schools said.

A group of several of the district's past teachers of the year, plus current Principal of the Year Vicki Haislip (Greenwood Elementary School) and Assistant Principal of the Year Frank Thompson, Jr. (Lee County High School) chose McNeill, who is now a finalist for a regional Teacher of the Year award. Each school provided a short biography of its nominee; McNeill's stated that she is thoughtful, humble and a quiet yet effective helper. She gives her co-workers cards and candy on their birthdays and sometimes takes students to her alma mater, Meredith College, to get them thinking about post-grad plans even before they get to high school.

McNeill will even be teaching a lesson in financial and environmental responsibility when she pulls up to school tomorrow in her new car. She was given the choice of three fresh-off-the-lot vehicles from Wilkinson Chevrolet-Buick-GMC-Cadillac, all Chevrolets: Camaro, Cruze or Sonic. Passing up the flashy Camaro and spacious Sonic, she chose the Cruze, citing its 40 miles-per-gallon fuel efficiency. Wilkinson, along with Wells Fargo and the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce, were Teacher of the Year sponsors.

And how will her students react when they see her new ride, not to mention the plaque declaring her the best of the best?

"They'll probably be as shocked and thrilled as I am," she said after the ceremony was over, still a little choked up.

McNeill began her career in 1993 at Greenwood Elementary School, spending five years teaching 4th and 5th grade. She then taught for a year in the Academically and Intellectually Gifted (AIG) program at Tramway Elementary School, and in 1999 she began teaching middle school. McNeill taught at East Lee Middle School for nine years before moving to SanLee, when the school opened in 2008, as a 6th grade English teacher and head of the school's language arts department.

McNeill has been a member of the school's leadership team since her arrival in 2008, and she has served as an Art of Collaboration Educator with the North Carolina Museum of Art since the year before that. She graduated from Meredith College and also has a Master of Education degree from Campbell University.

The winners of each individual school's Teacher of the Year award were:

* Debra Collins, Bragg Street Academy School (special education).

* Stephanie Needham, B.T. Bullock Elementary School (3rd grade).

* Amy Perozo, Broadway Elementary School (1st grade).

* Cheryl Ashley, Deep River Elementary School (1st grade).

* Matt Brown, East Lee Middle School (7th grade science).

* Dana Hendrick, Floyd L. Knight School - The Children's Center (middle school).

* Judy McDonald, Greenwood Elementary School (art).

* Lisa Foushee, J. Glenn Edwards Elementary School (kindergarten).

* Kim Himes, J. R. Ingram Jr. Elementary School (2nd grade).

* Lynn Knight, Lee County High School (finance, multimedia and web design).

* Tonya Comeaux, Lee Early College School (world history, civics and economics, and ACT prep).

* Patrice McNeill, SanLee Middle School (6th grade English).

* Pam Davis, Southern Lee High School (algebra II and AP statistics).

* April Bussy, Tramway Elementary School (K-3 exceptional children math and language arts).

* Tiffany Harris, Warren Williams Alternative Elementary School (3rd, 4th and 5th grades).

* Susan Davis, West Lee Middle School (8th grade math and 6th grade AVID).