‘Teacher of the Week’ praised for calm and intentional first grade instruction

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HAMPSTEAD, NC (WWAY) — Students in Hollie Humphreys’ first-grade class at South Topsail Elementary School are hard at work in this final week before the Christmas break.

A graduate of UNC Wilmington, Humphreys has only taught kindergarten and first-grade students during her 21-year career. By now, some of her earlier students have graduated from college.

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“When I find that one of my former students has made great achievements, it makes me so proud because I know they started with me and I hope that I made some sort of impact on them,” Humphreys said.

A WWAY viewer nominated Humphreys for ‘Teacher of the Week’ noting her calm demeanor and intentional instruction.

Both of these attributes have been critical for Humphreys with all the changes in instruction caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Most of South Topsail’s 400 students have returned to class for in-person instruction but about 65 are still learning virtually including four children in Humphreys’ class.

“I love having all of my children here four days a week, I’ve been able to manage my virtual students and pre-record lessons or stream them in live,” Humphreys said. “It was a challenge to teach with a mask, and especially in lower grades when we’re trying to teach phonics and they need to see your mouth when you make letter sounds.”

To ensure her remote students don’t trail behind their peers who have returned back to class for in-person learning, Humphreys often spends time at home preparing lessons for her virtual learners.

“Just last night, I spent two hours working at home and it was really all just for the virtual kids,” she said.

“Managing both in-person and virtual instruction at the same time is a challenge,” said Jennifer Angel who is the principal of the school.

She says Humphreys will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

“She has high expectations for them but she’s very good at making them feel that they can do it no matter what those expectations are and really encouraging them,” Angel said. “They just love her, she’s an amazing teacher.”

Angel says one thing that sets Humphreys apart is the high standard she holds for herself and her students despite challenges educators have faced since the start of the pandemic in March.

“During this time when things are a little more different and more challenging, her goal is for everybody to learn, everybody to exceed–that hasn’t changed and it won’t ever change,” Angel said.

While the Covid 19 pandemic took all of us by surprise in 2020, Humphreys hopes these kids have fond memories of first grade.

“What I hope my kids remember when they’re in college is not having to wear a mask and I don’t want them to remember they had to distance,” she said. “I want them to remember what they learned, the friendships they made, how supportive they felt and, maybe, how much they learned.”

Helping her students learn and prepare for second grade and beyond, is what Humphreys strives to give these little ones every day.

If you know a great teacher deserving of recognition, click here to submit your nomination. Each week’s winner receives a $100 gift card.