TESOL Grad Named RCS Teacher of the Year

Posted on September 13, 2023

Walter Moore, 2023-24 Rockingham County Teacher of the Year, sits on a wall for a photo

After earning degrees in anthropology and linguistics, along with minors in environmental studies and Spanish, from UNC Greensboro in 2004 Walter Moore embarked on a winding career path that would ultimately bring him to the point where he was recently named the Rockingham County Schools (RCS) Teacher of the Year.  

Now an English Language Development, or ESL, teacher at Reidsville High School, Moore returned to UNCG to earn his licensure in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) through the NC TEACH program in 2021. His TESOL licensure was sponsored by the EnACTeD/Ignite programs, which also provided world-class professional development and paid for his Praxis. In his current role Moore serves as a support for not only students, but their families and teachers. 

Named the RCS Teacher of the Year in August, Moore said his reaction to the honor was “complete and utter disbelief.” He adds that the recognition “means that I am doing something right.” 

He continued, “First, that my peers voted me in as Teacher of the Year of Reidville High School was the highest honor I have ever received. I’m honestly proud. I’m proud that the leaders in the district, the directorts and assistant superintendents, and board members see my own spark.” 

But Moore’s story begins before he enrolled in college when he served as a teaching assistant in a classroom that combined fourth and fifth grade students while also holding a second job at the YMCA as a staff member for an afterschool program. 

“I did this for a year-and-a-half and learned a lot about myself and about working in a classroom,” Moore said. “Realizing that I enjoyed working with people and thrived in an academic environment, but still unsure how that would ultimately look like for my own career, I elected to go to school for anthropology where I also picked up a second major in linguistics.” 

That experience led to an internship at The Greensboro Montessori School which turned into a fulltime position. In this role, Moore taught both Spanish and gardening saying, “This was an incredible opportunity to gain an alternative understanding of what school and education could mean. This is where I learned that my heart was in education, in helping people develop a vision for success, and fulfilling that vision.” 

Looking to gain a greater Spanish proficiency, Moore headed to South America where he lived and taught for over four years before returning to Rockingham County. He used the skills learned from that period of his life to find employment as a GED and English Language Acquisition (ELA) teacher at Rockingham Community College (RCC). It was here that Moore also took on curriculum development. At the same time, he was using his gardening skills, sustainably growing and selling produce such as heirloom tomatoes at a local farmer’s market. 

Walter Moore stands next to a celebration cake and balloons after being named 2023-24 Rockingham County Schools Teacher of the Year

Moore’s time at RCC led to a moment that made him realize he wanted to embrace teaching. “It took me a while to fully embrace this as a viable career, until, one day in a GED class that I was teaching, I had the honor of working with a gentleman in his 50s who had decided he wanted to read. He came in whenever he had a shift off during class hours and we spent 20 or 30 minutes reading leveled texts. This was laborious for both of us, and yet it became evident that we both looked forward to this time, as did the rest of the class, who worked in patient silence as this student took time to advance his literacy. One day it all just clicked, and I was hooked on teaching from thereafter.” 

Through his contacts at RCC Moore learned of a bilingual teaching assistant position at a local elementary school. “This year that I worked as a TA was probably the best year of my life,” he said. “I had never worked with elementary age students before this. The teachers were exhausted but happy. The support staff had sincere, authentic connections with classroom teachers. The certified staff were just as much members of the team as anyone.” 

It was tough for Moore to leave that position, but with a passion for secondary education, an ESL teaching position opened closer to his home, and he found himself at Reidsville High School where he has settled into a role that he loves. 

Moore said, “What I find most enjoyable and rewarding is that spark of understanding that increasingly happens on a daily basis in the students with whom I work. Always this is in the content areas, in reading, math, science, and history; in career and technical classes; in visual arts, and dramatic arts, and performance arts; in JROTC leadership class; in the health sciences; in athletics. But this spark also flies when a student finds success in their broader lives – when they get their first job, when they get accepted into college, when they apply for a program and make the final cut. And this is a spark that comes from a yearning to grow, and evolve, and learn, and must be nurtured.” 

While he did not originally come to UNCG as an education major, Moore credits his time at the school for preparing him for his role as a teacher. He made sure that the classes he was taking were going to benefit him in the future and make him as prepared as possible for a career. Moore understood that the opportunity to attend college was something not everyone would be granted.  

He said, “It is true that in many ways UNCG provided a nurturing environment for learning and growing; at the same time, there was the often-unstated truth that we would eventually be moving into the real world. And so, probably the most significant question that I asked at that time in my life was ‘What do I need to do to be employable?’ And so yes, I picked up two majors and two minors out of sheer delight and revelry in the disciplines, but also with a very concrete goal of finding some type of work, of making a living, and living comfortably, and being economically solvent when I graduated. I am well aware that school is not work. School is a place of learning and exploring.” 

It took Moore a little time to find his way into the classroom, but he fully recommends that others who are considering a career in education passionately pursue it. He pushes them to be honest with themselves as they reflect and consider their career path.  

He said, “The good questions are the ones that spur us to ask even more questions. Asking these questions, and coming up short for good answers, can help us appreciate the power and importance of our public schools and affirm our commitment to providing high-quality instruction to our students, and a safe place for them to learn and grow.” 

Thanks to his time at UNCG, Moore has been able to “travel the world, and appreciate that the true treasure has been in my own backyard all along.”