Skip to main content

NC State Announces School Leader Scholarship Recipients

NELA VI Cohort

Great schools have great leaders, and NC State is working to prepare highly effective principals for schools in northeastern North Carolina. Since 2010, NC State and a consortium of 13 rural, high-need school districts in northeast North Carolina have worked in partnership through the Northeast Leadership Academy (NELA). NELA is the nation’s top principal preparation program. It is one of only four programs to earn the distinction of being named an Exemplary Educational Leadership Preparation Program by the University Council for Educational Administration.

The Department of Education’s School Leadership Program Grant currently funds the program, including full scholarships for NELA’s newly admitted Cohort VI Fellows.

“Each component of NELA is anchored in research-based best practices in leadership preparation and is designed to meet the specific leadership needs of schools in the northeastern counties,” explains Bonnie Fusarelli, NELA director.

Applicants to NELA complete a rigorous selection process, including a day-long experiential assessment to identify individuals who are passionate, energetic and effective educators committed to improving the performance of all students. The selected fellows receive substantial benefits including a full scholarship, paid internships, conference travel, textbooks and technology materials. They earn a North Carolina school principal license and a master’s degree in of school administration. Graduates make a three-year post degree commitment to lead high-need schools in northeastern North Carolina.

Cathy Williams has been named the coordinator for Cohort VI. Williams is a retired, highly-effective Wake County principal who has shared her leadership expertise in the NELA program since its inception.

NC State is pleased to announced NELA’s Cohort VI Fellows:

Candice BallCandice Ball: Franklin County

Ball earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology from NC State. She participated on the Achievement Team for Franklin County training by Steve Ventura. In 2015, she was selected as the county’s Teacher of the Year. She teaches eighth grade science at Terrell Lane Middle School in Louisburg.

Bain.MeganMegan Bain: Nash-Rocky Mount

Bain earned degrees in international studies and Arabic from The Ohio State University. She was recognized as South Edgecombe Middle School Teacher of the Year in 2013. She participated in Teach for America and completed Math Design Collaborative training. Bain teaches eighth grade math and math 1 at Nash Central Middle School in Nashville.

Kenya BurdenKenya Burden: Nash-Rocky Mount

Burden earned bachelor’s degrees in elementary education and interdisciplinary studies from Norfolk State University. She was recognized as Teacher of the Year and has participated in Teacher Leader training and Innovator Technology training. She was involved in the implementation of the Impact Model School in Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools that integrated technology via Activboards, teacher laptops and other devices. Burden teaches fifth grade English/language arts and social studies at Benvenue Elementary School in Rocky Mount.

Mike CaseyMichael Casey: Edgecombe County

Casey earned a bachelor of music in music education from SUNY Fredonia and a master of music in music education from Kent State University. He participated in PBIS, Restorative Justice, VIF Global Education Professional Development, 21st Century Instruction Technology and Arts Integration trainings. Casey teaches K-8 general music and is the chorus and band director at Martin Millennium Academy in Tarboro. He serves as a grade chair, PBI Co-facilitator and SIT team member. He is also the lead band director for the district.

Beau DrakeBeau Drake: Franklin County

Drake earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a Master of Science in kinesiology from Chowan College. He was recognized by Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers and was voted best teacher by his student body. He received the NCISAA All Star Football Coach award, the NCHSAA State Champion Football Coach award and the Chowan University Distinguished Alumni Award. Drake teaches physical education at Royal Elementary School in Louisburg.

Chad HornerChad Horner: Nash-Rocky Mount

Horner earned a bachelor’s degree in United States history with a minor in psychology from Indiana University, a Master of Teaching from Earlham College, and a master’s of science education from Kaplan University. He was recognized as Teacher of the Year in 2009. He participates in the Literacy Design Collaborative through the Southern Regional Educational Board and has completed Kagen Professional Development. Horner says, “It is an honor to know that there are other educators out there who see the promise I do in not only eastern North Carolina, but in education as a whole.” Horner teaches middle grades science and social studies at Nash Central Middle School in Nashville.

Leigh Ann HudsonLeigh Ann Hudson: Martin County

Hudson earned a Bachelors of Arts in biology from Barton College. She was a Kenan Fellow during 2015-2016. She attended Coach University, NC New Schools Breakthrough Learning and NC State Science House Modeling Workshops for physics and biology. Hudson teaches science at Riverside High School in Williamston.

Tekeyla JonesTekeyla Jones: Nash-Rocky Mount

Jones earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Shaw University and a Master of Science in counselor education from East Carolina University. She began her career in education as a middle school social studies teacher with Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools. She is also a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA) with the state of North Carolina and worked part-time at a children’s mental health hospital as a therapist. Jones is a school counselor at Northern Nash High School in Rocky Mount, where she also serves on the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Team and the Behavior and Academic Intervention Team (BAIT).

Leo NievesLeo Neives III: Nash-Rocky Mount

Neives earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from East Carolina University. He was recognized as the 2012-2013 Nash Central High School Teacher of the Year, the 2015 All District Guest Conductor/Clinician, the 2016 East Region Jazz Ensemble B Guest Conductor/Clinician, and the Guest Conductor/Clinician for several all-county bands. He participates as the Critical Friends Group Coach for the National School Reform Faculty. He is the director of bands (marching band, wind ensemble, concert band and jazz band) at Nash Central High School in Rocky Mount.

Danisha NorfleetDanisha Norfleet: Washington County

Norfleet earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a concentration in mathematics from Elizabeth City State University. She received the Model Classroom award and has been recognized as Teacher of the Year. Norfleet teaches math at Washington County Union Middle School in Roper.

Amy ParkerAmy Parker: Nash-Rocky Mount 

Parker earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, kindergarten through sixth grade, from Barton College. She participated in mentor and cooperative teacher training through Barton and East Carolina University, Engineering Place at NC State Summer Camp program training, and has a Gifted Education add-on certification. She was Teacher of the Year at her school in 1993, 1998 and 2002. She earned National Board Certification in 2011. She is the AIG facilitator at Spring Hope Elementary School in Spring Hope.  

Patrick QuastPatrick Quast: Roanoke Rapids Graded School District

Quast earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with a concentration in history (fifth through 12th grade) and an American history concentration in 20th century terrorism. He also earned a Master of Education in K-12 literacy. He was recognized as the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District Teacher of the Year for the 2014-2015 school year. He was also a Gilder Lehrman Teacher seminar participant and completed National Dropout Prevention Council training. Patrick teaches seventh grade social studies at Chaloner Middle School in Roanoke Rapids.

DeNeasha StrotherDeNeasha K. Strother: Edgecombe County

Strother earned a Bachelor of Science in biology with a minor in chemistry from North Carolina Wesleyan College. She was the Tarboro High School Yearbook Dedication recipient in 2013. She attended the AP Institute at NC State for Advanced Placement Certification, NASA Tools Professional Development Institute, Pyramid Response to Intervention training, and Positive Behavior Intervention and Support training. She served as an advanced placement biology teacher and as the science department chair at Tarboro High School before transferring to Martin Millennium Academy in 2015. She served on the school improvement team for four years at Tarboro High School. She is a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) member and co-facilitator of PBIS staff trainings. Strother teaches sixth grade science at Martin Millennium Academy in Tarboro.

Jasmmine TraunJasmine Traun: Nash-Rocky Mount

Traun earned a Bachelor of Science in family social science from the University of Minnesota and was a Teach for America participant. She is the third through fifth grade math representative for her iTransformers district team, the PLC facilitator for Teach for America and attended North Carolina Technology in Education Society training. Traun teaches third grade at Nashville Elementary School in Nashville.

Laura WilsonLaura Wilson: Franklin County

Wilson earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary mathematics education from NC State. She was recognized as Franklin County Schools Secondary Mathematics Educator of the Year for the 2014-2015 school year. She participated in the North Carolina Governor’s Teacher Network and Aspired (NC State’s ACT Prep-Class Training). Wilson is the Franklinton High School math department chair, and serves on the school leadership team, school improvement team and the school professional development team. She is a teacher mentor, student government sponsor, varsity cheerleading coach and competition team cheerleading coach. Wilson teaches ninth through 12th grade mathematics at Franklinton High School.

For more information about NELA, visit or contact Bonnie Fusarelli, NELA director (