Currently the Academically or Intellectually Gifted (AIG) teacher at both Trindale and Archdale Elementary Schools, Sophie Herring was honored as the 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year by Randolph County Schools this fall. Herring earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education through UNC Greensboro’s Department of Teacher Education and Higher Education in 2016.
Herring says she was stunned to receive the teacher of the year recognition, “I was in the room, surrounded by incredible educators and on stage with the best of the best, so naturally, I was completely stunned when Dr. (Stephen) Gainey called out my name. My OSTE (On-Site Teacher Educator) from UNCG was my plus one and it was the proudest moment of my career, especially to be able to share it with her. I have never felt more humbled and honored than that night.”
The honor is an important reflection of the work being done by Herring who understands the meaning of the accolade. She said, “I recognize that I am young in my career and this opportunity rarely, if ever, comes around. The day Trindale named me teacher of the year, I was so proud that my colleagues entrusted me with this title. To be named the teacher of the year for my county is such a privilege and affirms the hard work, tears, and dedication to the career.”
After interning at Trindale Elementary while at UNCG, Herring was able to land her “dream job” teaching third grade at the school. In 2017, Herring was awarded the county’s Beginning Teacher of Excellence award. She spent six years teaching third grade before jumping at the opportunity to work with gifted students at both Trindale and Archdale Elementary Schools.
“I love the many grade levels and students I get to interact with,” said Herring. “This year has been such a jump out of my comfort zone – from working with different grade levels and a new school. It has pushed me in the best way and allowed me to work with so many more students than in the past. I also get to work with students I taught the last two years that are in my fourth and fifth grade groups; they have a special place in my heart. I love planning enrichment activities and engaging lessons that take the curriculum so much deeper. My students show me how bright and creative they are each day. I usually end up learning something new, as well!”
Much has been written and televised about the current state of education and a potential shortage of teachers. Herring encourages those thinking about entering the classroom to tune out that noise and join the profession.
“There is such a negative message surrounding education, and it does not accurately depict what happens in the classroom,” she said. “Like every job in the world, there are challenges and things you want to change. However, when you get in your classroom and get to work with the precious students that enter your classroom, it makes all the challenges worth it. This is the most important and rewarding job in the world. And always remember why you wanted to be in education.”
Herring’s path to her award-winning career was formed during her time at UNCG. Following her first two years in the program, one of her most memorable moments came at the start of her junior year. She said, “I found out my team leader was Marilyn Preddy and walked back to her room to be surrounded by some of my dearest friends. This was a terrifying day, but the most exciting day because I finally felt like… I was ready to make a difference in education.”
That continued with her internship and student teaching that led to her initial job at Trindale. The people she met along the way – the faculty at UNCG, her OSTE, and fellow teachers that she has worked with – helped to shape Herring into the teacher she is today by challenging her.
Less than 10 years into her career, Herring looks to have a bright future ahead of her.