‘Teacher of the Week’ showers students and staff with random acts of kindness

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Many students and teachers across the Cape Fear are feeling the weight of the pandemic as it stretches into a second school year.

Pender County Schools are operating under “Plan B” which means half of the students attend school on Monday and Tuesday, and the other half come on Thursday and Friday.

From creating a business plan to developing public speaking skills like a pro, Gina Oaks’ Career and Technical Education (CTE) lessons at Topsail Middle School contain equal parts of instruction and kindness.

“It’s just a stressful time for everyone,” Oaks said, “I just try to be really positive and encourage them to keep going.”

Recently, WWAY received a ‘Teacher of the Week’ nomination stating that Oaks does lots of things to encourage her students and coworkers.

Oaks earned her undergraduate degree from Central Connecticut State University and then worked for a pharmaceutical company in the Northeast.

“I decided one day the corporate world wasn’t for me so instead I decided to quit my job and I went back to school,” she said.

She then earned a master’s degree from the University of New Haven.

“I combine my love of business and technology with my love of kids, and that’s how I became a teacher,” she said.

Fast forward 22 years, she’s now teaching sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students. Recently, her students created posters displaying various careers they plan to pursue (slide show below).

“Topsail Middle is another family to me so it’s nice to come to school and know that I have a family away from my own personal family up North,” Oaks said.

The nomination we received says she not only makes time for students, she also does lots of other things to boost morale for teachers and staff.

“That’s why I bring cookie cakes and doughnuts, and just random treats to people just to try and perk them up a little bit,” she said.

Principal Jacob Lawrence says Oaks embodies educational leadership. When students started falling behind last October due to the pandemic, he says Oaks sprung into action.

“She’s dedicated about three nights a week of tutoring,” Lawrence said. “She stays after school to provide tutoring services for students and its grown so much that we have other teachers coming in and helping out with tutoring as well.”

Lawrence says after-school tutoring has been critical for students who have struggled with remote learning at home during the pandemic.

Oaks’ kindness is match only by her humility.

“I’m just so touched by that nomination, it really means a lot because you know I try to be a behind-the-scenes-person, to make people happy and it’s nice someone recognized me,” she said. “I was really excited about that and I’m really shocked and appreciative.”

Lawrence says every school should have a Gina Oaks.

“Not only for the students but also for the staff and all that she does for everyone,” he said.

Click here if you would like to nominate someone for ‘Teacher of the Week.’ Each week’s winner receives a $100 Staples gift card thanks to our partners, Down East Heating & Air Conditioning.

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