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We Are Thankful: Dedicated to Educators Who Inspire

The Philo-Hill Magnet Academy Staff express our sincere gratitude for educators who inspired us...

I am thankful for Mrs. Carol Pitts. She was my high school biology teacher at Western Harnett High School. I never thought that the lessons she taught me in high school biology would have so great an influence on my life. I remember her teaching us everything from the mitochondria to the evolution of public education. It was important growing up in a farming and military community that we understood the importance of working together and understanding each other.  She modeled as a true advocate for young people. There were times when racism and politics influenced the actions of adults in our community; she always found a way to help students process what was going on and allowed us time to share our feelings with a caring adult. She held us accountable for respecting one another (no matter what our skin color, background, or economic status). She taught us that we were all human beings in the literal sense and everyone could aspire for greatness. 

I am thankful for the opportunity to be a student of Mrs. Carol Pitts. She encouraged me to value all people and advocate for people who did not have a voice (or a seat at the table). Lessons learned from Mrs. Pitts’s biology class continue to help me navigate past barriers devised to deter me away from public education to fall back in love daily with the opportunities to inspire and advocate for young people just as Mrs. Pitts inspired and advocated for me. 

- Dr. Benika J. Thompson (Western Harnett High School Class of ‘97)


There are many great educators, but only one who has truly inspired me. Her room was filled with bright colored words, with the names of the different parts of speech. It always smelled fresh and was so well organized. Students knew when they entered her room that learning was her key priority.

Her magnetic personality drew you in. Students would leave the classroom with smiling faces and feel as though they could conquer the world! She sewed into her students socially and emotionally realizing they work hand in hand. Her passion for student success went beyond the classroom.

Grabbing a couple of dollars out of her purse for a student to attend a field trip, working overtime to diversify lessons, or visiting with students and parents at home regardless of the neighborhood, was second nature for her. “Hey Mrs. Roberts! Hey Mrs. Roberts! Remember me?” I hear them say when we are out together. “You were my favorite teacher! I just smile, because she is mine too! Even though she is my MOM.

- Ms. Christian Stewart


Dear Mrs. Wanda Ball and Mr. Norwood Walker,

You created a classroom environment that was collaborative and encouraged creative and critical thinking. You inspired us not only to be better students but also to be better people. Mrs. Ball, you made a personal connection with me and helped me to feel like I had something to offer and that I was a valuable part of a group. Mr. Walker, you brought in vinyl records to play during class and had us write a protest song. That lesson has stuck with me because I did not like history as a subject. When you taught history, you engaged us by making connections that we could understand and relate to. I will always strive to be the kind of teacher you each were for me - caring, engaging, and creative. Thank you.


- Mrs. Kellie Harris (Person High School Class of ‘95)


Dear Constance Hash and Falicia Fuller,

   I am so thankful I was able to learn and work under you both. I appreciate all the patience you both had with me as all the opportunities I was given to grow as a leader, educator, and as a person. You both always let me know you believed in me and my abilities. I could always come to you both whenever I needed a little guidance, shed a tear, or see a smile. My first 10 years of teaching were molded by your leadership and knowledge, and I thank you for all that you shared with me and challenging me.
- Mrs. Anna Dooley (Mineral Spring ES and Forest Park ES Staff ’08)

I can still see her clearly: my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Debussy, who gave me a volume of Robert Frost's poetry, encouraged my writing, and even hired me to babysit her daughter during a long weekend at the lake. I was in 8th grade: sullen, often petulant, and I am quite sure as disagreeable as I could have been, and in hindsight I'm mortified that I was so awful. Yet Mrs. Debussy's personal interest in and encouragement of my writing was undeterred. It takes a soft soul and a tough skin to teach middle school, and she had both. The only thing I enjoyed at that age was writing, and Mrs. Debussy found that very, very rough diamond and polished it with her attention toward the grouchy girl in the back row, her regard of my purple prose, and most of all her forgiveness.
-Ms. Kerri Chewning


Dear Sister Charles McFadden, 

Thank you for encouraging my parents to enroll me in school early.  Thank you for seeing the promise in me.  Thank you for continuing to see that promise when it was so hard because I couldn’t quite get reading or math.  Thank you for fighting for me to get the extra help that I needed.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for pulling me out of my 1st grade class when my learning differences were just too much for my teacher to let me sit in your office with you listening to music while I figured out for myself why those letters and numbers worked just that way.  It was just what I needed.  Mrs. Shine was not always shiny.  And thanks for always keeping those rosary beads in your desk drawer for me so when the struggle was just too much we could take a break together to help me find the strength to keep going.  You told me in your quiet way that I was worth it and that I wasn’t alone.  You never compared me to anyone and found me lacking.  I hope you felt how much I loved you and how much you meant to me.  All that I've accomplished has come from the strength and perseverance you helped me gain.  

Love always, 

Mrs. Michele Hughes (Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Class of 1986) 


I am thankful for Dr. John Van Hoose. He was my faculty advisor for the middle school education program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I was introduced to Dr. Van Hoose after changing my major from high school to middle grades. I remember being so sad because I had planned to teach biology but thanks to my lack of effort in invertebrate zoology class, it would take me an additional semester to graduate. Thus, I decided to go into middle grades education. I was new to the cohort and had some preconceptions about how things would go. Dr. Van Hoose continued to encourage me to “give it a chance; it’ll all work out.” He was right, I totally enjoyed my time with the middle school pre-service teachers. During our final semester, Dr. Van Hoose spent a lot of time preparing us for the social-emotional aspect of teaching. I remember one day in class he shared some disheartening news with us. As he did so he turned his back towards us,(this was something he often warned us against doing because we were to always monitor our classes) he began to weep silently. He then faced us and said, “Don’t be afraid to let your students see you cry.” The lesson I learned that day was that social-emotional learning applies to us all. We must learn to be compassionate and express our feelings even as educators. It is important and healthy for young people to have adults in their lives to model ways to safely express feelings and emotions. Some of our young people will only get those lessons at school.

Dr. Van Hoose transitioned from this world to heavenly rest on Thursday, April 5, 2001. While he was not present to see us graduate that May, he was there in spirit. I am so thankful to be one of his last students. I am so thankful for the lessons he taught me as an educator to lead with love and advocate for all students. Lessons learned from Dr. Van Hoose helps me remember that a true educator demonstrates empathy and compassion for others. Sometimes this work can bring about joy, other times pain, but our young people are always worth it. 

- Dr. Benika J. Thompson (University of North Carolina at Greensboro Class of ‘01)