Home Local News Rockingham Middle’s Lauren Lutz Named 2017 “Teacher of the Year”

Rockingham Middle’s Lauren Lutz Named 2017 “Teacher of the Year”

ROCKINGHAM – For Richmond County Schools’ teachers, principals and central office staff, the start of Monday’s classes can’t come quickly enough. But before they head to their classrooms, RCS held its annual convocation ceremony Thursday afternoon in Richmond Senior High School’s cafeteria.

The approximately 650 district workers packed the venue, and enjoyed a light back-to-school atmosphere that buzzed with summer happenings and expectations for the coming school year. The district’s child nutrition staff served ice cream, complete with a toppings bar.

Usually held at Richmond Community College’s Cole Auditorium, this year’s convocation was not able to be held there due to flood damage sustained earlier in the summer. Nonetheless, Superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman welcomed her staff with a bright smile and a personal speech that encouraged teachers and principals to never lose the desire to educate young people.

“It’s important to me that we get together,” Goodman said. “I want us to take a look at the past year and honor some of our best teachers and administrators. Thanks to your hard work, student achievement is up once again.”

Goodman eloquently recalled a former student who wrote her letters after he had moved on from her math class. She used it as an example to remind teachers that their goal as educators should be to “make a connection” with their students. She closed her welcome letter by challenging everyone to build relationships this year that last a lifetime.

The program, which usually entails a keynote speaker, was shorter this year due to the size and space available. After Dr. Goodman’s address, Associate Superintendent Dr. Jeff Maples recognized several RCS staff members who had perfect attendance during the 2016 – 2017 school year.

Every year at this event, employees look forward to the final three recognitions: Assistant Principal of the Year, Principal of the Year and district-wide Teacher of the Year. The County’s 16 principals, and plethora of assistant principals, vote for one of their peers to be recognized in each category.

For teachers, each school’s staff votes in the spring to nominate their teacher of the year, which then he/she undergoes an extensive review by an executive committee to determine the winner. Of the many aspects reviewed, some are: test scores, classroom management, relationships with students, and their ability to go above and beyond the classroom’s expectations. Nominees also complete a questionnaire about their teaching methods, and are interviewed by the committee.

Rockingham Middle School’s Jennifer Brach, who will soon be moving to central office as the Director of Testing and Accountability, was selected as the assistant principal of the year. Introduced by RCS Human Resources Director Julian Carter, Brach, who was at Rockingham Middle for two and a half years, began her career as an educator in 1990. She stepped out of the classroom to work in the private sector, but returned in 2008, and has been a staple within the district ever since.


Taking home the principal of the year award was Richmond’s own Jim Butler, who was awarded the honor after just one year at the High School. Having won the award previously for the 2013 – 2014 school year while at Hamlet Middle School, Butler was described by his peers as having a “strong academic focus,” while Executive Director of Auxiliary Services Dennis Quick added that Butler is, “affable, gregarious and erudite.” Butler, who has helped bring a cultural light to Richmond, began as a lateral entry social studies teacher.

At last, the time came to honor RCS’ most esteemed award, Teacher of the Year. The 2016 – 2017 nominees included: Deborah Marshall (Ashley Chapel Educational Center), Shannon Hughes (Cordova School), Erin Norris (East Rockingham), Roxi Anderson (Ellerbe Middle), Charla Jacobs (Fairview Heights), Phyllis Lupo (Hamlet Middle), Michelle Davis (L.J. Bell), Katyna Deberry-Spaine (Mineral Springs), Kim Pence (Monroe Avenue), Neely Sullivan (Ninth Grade Academy), Jennifer Byrd (Richmond Early College), Julie Howard (RSHS), Lauren Lutz (Rockingham Middle), Shannon Haywood (Rohanen Middle), Stephanie Deprizio (Washington Street), and Rebekah Burleson (West Rockingham).

The winner was announced via a video presentation that showcased what she did in her classroom, including student interviews. Rockingham Middle’s Lutz sat in awe when she realized her video was playing and she was the district’s Teacher of the Year.

“I’m usually a talker,” Lutz said as she addressed the audience. “But right now I am totally speechless.”

Lutz, who teaches chorus and is actively involved with Junior Beta Club, is entering her 14th year teaching, having served in six of the district’s schools. With RMS being her home for the last two and a half years, Lutz was overwhelmed and completely surprised when her name was called.

“This is really exciting,” Lutz said. “It is such an honor to be grouped with these teachers. I hope I can parlay this recognition into more opportunities for my students. If I can use this to put the spotlight on what my students are doing, that’s the ultimate reward.”

Lutz was joined on stage with her husband Jason, and their three children: Gabby (11), Ben (8) and Nate (6). Lutz will receive one of three vehicles of her choice for a year from Griffin Automotive as an incentive for her recognition.

“Lauren is a great asset to our district,” Goodman said. “We are lucky to have her and all the other nominees. I am excited to see what this year will bring.”   


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Kyle Pillar is a 22-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on X @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.