‘Teacher of the Week’ retiring after 24 years of teaching science

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SHALLOTTE, NC (WWAY) — Our last ‘Teacher of the Week’ for the 2020-2021 school year features one of the zaniest and most positive educators you’ll likely ever meet.

When you step inside Lea Freer’s science classroom at Shallotte Middle School, you’ll quickly notice her love for pigs. From the bookshelves and the walls, to practically every nook and cranny in her classroom, pigs are on full display.

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Freer is also known for keeping a bags of hats she wears to match any holiday or occasion, but one of her favorites head pieces is her pig hat.

“I wear my pig hat proudly because I am a pig person, I love pigs, they are the cutest things when they’re tiny, little squealy things,” Freer said.

After earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in criminal justice from UNC Charlotte, Freer worked at IBM for 11 years. When she was laid off, she decided to pursue a Master of Arts degree in teaching from Queens University.

She’s taught 24 years and the last six have been at Shallotte Middle where she’s known for her positivity.

“It takes too much energy to be sad and angry, but it’s so easy to smile and say nice things,” she said. “I just want to spread positivity and make sure people feel good about themselves.”

That’s why we picked her as our ‘Teacher of the Week.’

“It makes me feel wonderful that people recognize that I’m doing what I can do to make everybody be positive, feel good about themselves and love what they do here,” Freer said.

Another way she shows kindness is by sending a monthly email noting positive things teachers and staff are doing at the school. Its something she started several years ago.

“Morale was kind of low so I felt we needed some way to pump people up,” she said.

David Ruth is the principal of the school. What Freer does with her monthly email to staff, he says, is a great boost because they can see and hear what other teachers are doing.

“I know the times that I’ve received those, it’s made me feel really good,” Ruth said.

As the school year ends it also marks the end of Freer’s teaching career because she’s retiring. Ruth says no one will be able to fill Freer’s shoes.

“There’s not a person in our staff that can find anything negative to say about her,” Ruth said. “I really believe it’s just part of her DNA, it’s just part of who she is and I don’t think you can change that in her. She’s going to find the good in people.”

As for the thousands of students she’s taught all these years, Freer hopes they remember how much she loved having them in her class.

“I loved seeing them, teaching them, watching them grow as a person and a student,” she said. “I just hope they take that with them and remember to always do their best because that’s what I expect of them and expected of them and always be yourself but be your best self.”

While Freer, her zany hats and all those pigs will be a thing of the past, her legacy remains.

When the staff says “Do it the Freer way,” Ruth says its a reminder to “always remember that we are dealing with people that have all sorts of situations and if we can find the positive, then we can build relationships.”

As Freer closes this chapter of her life, she says she’s blessed to have wonderful teammates, administrators and students that have made an impact on her life.

“I will look back fondly over these years and think why did I ever leave, and then I’ll remember, oh 5 a.m. is why I left,” she said.

Freer’s fun personality and positivity will undoubtedly continue to impact her students and former colleagues many years to come.

As part of WWAY’s ‘Teacher of the Week’ recognition, Freer received a $100 gift card thanks to our sponsor, Down East Heating and Air Conditioning.