On April 27, Moore County Schools held its annual banquet to honor its top educators. In a press release, the school district announced the 2023-24 Alternate Teacher of the Year is Mark Hildreth, Teacher of the Year is Jennifer Blake, and Principal of the Year is Debbie Warren.
Mr. Hildreth, an English Language Arts teacher at Crain’s Creek Middle School, signed an initial teacher contract 27 years ago, when training on a mimeograph machine and overhead projector were standard. Fast-forward 27 years, and he now analyzes data from multiple sources, all digital. Mr. Hildreth gets excited for the opportunity to introduce youth to great literature, to see their reactions to the end of “The Lottery,” or to witness the first time a student understands poetry.
Board Chair Robert Levy (left), Mark Hildreth, and Superintendent Dr. Locklair.
Ms. Blake, a third-grade teacher at Carthage Elementary School, was inspired to become a teacher by several teachers she had growing up. Those teachers were influential because they helped her through school, hormones, friendships, and life. They also made her feel seen, loved, and capable of success, even when she did not personally feel capable. Due to their influence, Ms. Blake wanted to do the same for other kids.
Ms. Blake is a highly dedicated professional who strives to make a difference in her students’ lives. She says that one must love teaching enough to survive it, describing that one has to love it, one has to get excited when those little “light bulb” moments happen, and one has to be reflective and willing, not only to make changes, but to embrace mistakes when they happen.
When asked following the award presentation what this recognition means, Ms. Blake stated, “I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have been selected to receive this award. It will be an honor to represent all of the incredible teachers here tonight as well as the entirety of the teaching community of Moore County. It means so much to me to have the work that I love so much be recognized. My kids are going to be so excited!”
Board Chair Rober Levy (left), Jennifer Blake, and Superintendent Dr. Locklair.
Principal of the Year, Ms. Warren, has a long service history to Moore County Schools, 36 years specifically. She began her career as an exceptional children teacher, serving at Robbins Elementary, Westmoore Elementary, and Pinehurst Elementary schools. Ms. Warren has been awarded the Pinehurst Elementary School Teacher of the Year and the district’s Exceptional Children Teacher of the Year. Moving forward, she served as an assistant principal at Southern Pines Elementary, Pinecrest High, and West Pine Middle schools. Most recently, she has served as principal at Aberdeen Elementary, Southern Middle, and Carthage Elementary schools.
Though, in previous years, she has been named Teacher of the Year and Exceptional Children Teacher of the Year, she says her greatest achievement is in her students’ learning. Ms. Warren has worked to instill an atmosphere of continuous learning and improvement for both students and staff. If you ever visit her school, you will quickly notice her focus on culture and academics has resonated with her staff.
Although Ms. Warren’s primary focus is always firmly on supporting students and teachers, she is also an outstanding colleague who is well respected by her peers and always finds time to offer advice and support if called upon. She is a leader who exemplifies the term “servant leader” and highly deserves this recognition.
Ms. Warren stated, “It is such a great honor to be named Moore County Schools Principal of the Year for 2023-24! I accept this award on behalf of my colleagues. I know how hard they work and the challenges they face each day. What makes being a principal so rewarding are the many positive relationships built with students, their families, staff, and community. I will always cherish the individuals who have helped me reach this recognition.”
“We are so thankful for everything Mr. Hildreth, Ms. Blake, and Ms. Warren does to support our students, staff, parents, and communities,” said the school district. “Congratulations, Mr. Hildreth, Ms. Blake, and Ms. Warren! We wish Ms. Blake and Ms. Warren the best of luck in the Regional Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year competitions.”
Feature photo: Board Chair Robert Levy (left), Debbie Warren, and Superintendent Dr. Locklair.