Moore Teacher Write-Ups is a series on local educators highlighting the women and men who are raising our next generation, and to whom we entrust our children every day.
Moore County teacher Leah Bartram just accepted the position “Instructional Specialist for Exceptional Children,” but she is still a teacher at heart. Bartram, the 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year, taught eight of her 12 years at New Century Middle School. Her peers selected her out of representatives from the 21 other Moore County schools.
After graduating college, Bartram worked as a travel agent until her children were born. When she returned to work, she began her second career as a teacher. She holds certifications in English and social studies. She taught for five years at a Catholic school before coming to Moore County.
“Seeing students succeed is one of my great joys as a teacher,” Bartram said.
She recounted the story of a student in the seventh grade. He took English and math in a small group, but he always said he was going to drop out.
His parents had dropped out and were working, which was enough for him. He ended up staying in school because his teachers continued to encourage him that he could do it.
Bartram ran into him recently after his graduation. He is now working, married, and has a child. “He had teachers who would not let him quit, and when I saw him, he was happy,” said Bartram. “He was proud of himself and had every right to be because school was an absolute struggle for him, but the perseverance and grit his teachers instilled in him got him through.”
Despite teaching being a second career, Bartram has always loved children. In high school, she would tutor students in reading. She had been involved with the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts training leaders and felt that teaching was the natural progression. “I have always felt like I was a teacher,” said Bartram. “I just didn’t have the credentials then.”
Bartram has been married 31 years to a retired soldier. They have four children and two grandchildren, which they absolutely spoil.
When asked about the effect of the pandemic on school administration, staff and students, she believes it’s impacting students’ mental health. “Mental health is going to be at the forefront for the immediate future,” she added.
The past couple of years has been a challenge to everyone concerned, Bartram said. In some ways, New Century Middle School was fortunate that when the pandemic started, they already had Chromebooks, and students knew how to use them. Teachers had to learn a lot about remote learning, including making classes more accessible.
However, the effect on students and families of the prolonged absence from in-school learning is significant. Students rely on social contact with their friends, and families rely on the schools for many things, Bartram said.
“We were so happy when we got our kids back,” Bartram added.
When asked why she chose to teach, she explained, “It’s about working with kids. I have always enjoyed working with kids. And I have always thought education was not about teaching academics, but teaching is looking at the whole student, figuring out the strengths and weaknesses, and capitalizing on the strengths to bring the weaknesses up.”
Bartram said she takes “great joy in the relationships I have formed with students and watching them succeed.”
If you have a teacher you would like to nominate to be showcased in this series, please email [email protected].
~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Chris Prentice.