An education awards ceremony on Monday was a cozy affair by Garner Performing Arts Center standards, drawing a crowd of mostly honorees and their families.
But among those present were Wake County school officials and Town of Garner leaders who saw it worth their time to salute standout teachers and students from the 11 Garner-area schools.
The Garner Educational Foundation, the town and the Garner Chamber of Commerce partnered to hold the annual event, now named in memory of former Garner teacher and GEF board member Marjorie B. Barefoot.
“(Barefoot) set a standard for all of us on the board in terms of her dedication, her love for children and her commitment to the Garner-area schools,” said foundation chairwoman Cathy Williams, a past principal at East Garner Middle School. “There really aren’t many current members anymore who knew Marjorie, but I think it’s really fitting that we come together once a year to celebrate education in her name.”
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The ceremony honored a Teacher of the Year from each of the 11 schools. They were Beth Wise of Timber Drive Elementary; Heather Wimberly, Garner High; Jennifer Cherry, Vance Elementary; Katherine Sokolowski, East Garner Middle; Kelly Harris, Rand Road Elementary; Laura Cobb, Vandora Springs Elementary; Laura Perez, East Garner Elementary; Lindsey Barton, Smith Elementary; Melissa Oliver, Creech Road Elementary; Sherry Aldridge, North Garner Middle; and Sue Myers, Aversboro Elementary.
Jessica Bird of Aversboro Elementary and Jennifer Steinbach of Timber Drive Elementary were named Diane Kent-Parker First-Year Teachers of the Year.
Teacher Assistants of the Year were Belinda Roberson of East Garner Middle; Carmen Davis, North Garner Middle; Carrie Kuvik, Rand Road Elementary; Jennifer Durbal, Vance Elementary; Kim Grande, Timber Drive Elementary; Louanne Miller, Vandora Springs Elementary; and Olivia Richardson, Smith Elementary.
Sokolowski, Sarah Carter of Smith Elementary and Nicki Hall and Jennifer Rucker of Timber Drive Elementary were recognized for earning National Board Certification.
The groups also bid farewell to 19 retiring teachers: Catherine Napolitano, Ella Dobbin, Kathy Hopkins, Kay Griffin and Tam Bobbitt, all of Aversboro Elementary; Alice Sprinkle, Bernice Dawson, Bertha Gilmore and Donna Bateman, Garner High; Barbara Bailey, North Garner Middle; Anita Greer and Ann Badders, Rand Road Elementary; Garcia Sampson, John Nordquist and Virginia Cardenas, Smith Elementary; Cherry Riddick, Vance Elementary; and Jim Hunt, Kay Morgan and Nancy James, Vandora Springs Elementary.
Garner Town Council members were among those to escort 10 Garner High seniors onto the stage, where presenters shared their backgrounds and college plans. Each earned a $1,000 scholarship.
Susie Knabe received the Mayor of Garner Educational Scholarship, given to a student who intends to pursue a career in education. Knabe is headed to Appalachian State University with plans to become a career and technical education teacher.
“My brother just finished his freshman year at Campbell, so anything helps offset our family expenses,” she said.
Amy Kelly and Caroline Bryan each received National Pawn Scholarships; Christine Wilkins, the Miss Garner Scholarship Pageant Scholarship; Jasmine Atkinson, the R.W. Moore Scholarship; and Laura Austin, the Marjorie Barefoot Opportunity Scholarship.
Libby Bynum received the Red Star Oil Scholarship; Noel Buitrago, the Don and Betty Rohrbaugh Family Scholarship; Sarah Smith, the Garner Town Council Scholarship; and Spencer Phillips, the Caroline Ball Family Foundation Scholarship.
Wake school board chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler and area Superintendent Lloyd Gardner made closing remarks.
“There’s a common thread I see that runs among and between these different groups, and that’s the pursuit of excellence,” Gardner said. “This community is a model for how it embraces the schools and serves the young people of this community.”
Gardner also recognized Margaret Bingham for her work with the GEF. The foundation’s annual storytelling festival will be named in her honor.