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Honors and Awards

Peyton Pugh ’23 Named Wake County Diane Kent-Parker First-Year Teacher of the Year

Peyton Pugh in her classroom, being honored as Diane Kent-Parker First-Year Teacher of the Year.
Peyton Pugh '23, left, discovered she had been named Diane Kent-Parker First-Year Teacher of the Year during a surprise classroom celebration. Photo courtesy of Lori Rutherford.

At the beginning of her junior year in the NC State College of Education, Peyton Pugh ’23 sat down in a third grade classroom with a boy who was struggling to read. She had recently switched her major to elementary education, but she was unsure if she had made the right decision. Then, over the course of her field experience at Wake County’s Millbrook Magnet Elementary School, she watched that third grader grow into a stronger, more confident reader. 

“Just his personality, he seemed like a whole new kid by the end of the year, because of the way that that teacher was able to connect with him,” Pugh said. “And so I was like, yep, that’s what I want to do.”

After Pugh graduated from the College of Education, she became a second grade teacher at Forestville Road Elementary School in Knightdale, with the goal of helping her students grow and become stronger learners. In February, Pugh was recognized for her work and named a Wake County Public School System Diane Kent Parker First-Year Teacher of the Year.

“I felt really excited and proud and honestly blessed because of the school where I’m at,” Pugh said. “The people who I work with and the stuff that [I learned] at NC State has supported me so much in getting here, and I would definitely not be here without all those amazing people helping me.”

Pugh discovered she had received the honor during a surprise classroom celebration, which took place the same day her class of already very excited second-graders returned from a field trip to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.  

“They were like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on,'” Pugh said. “Once we explained to them what had happened, they were like, ‘Oh, yeah, she’s great.’ They made me lots of cards that made me feel really special, and so they were really happy. They agreed that I should have won it.” 

In the essay Pugh wrote as a Diane Kent-Parker Award nominee, she described the special effort she makes to connect with her students, especially the English as a second language learners in her classroom who may have difficulties with reading.

“[I wrote about] different things that I’ve been introducing and using in my classroom to help them learn and grow and have the same opportunities that other students have,” Pugh said.

Those techniques include sentence starters, word banks and plenty of visuals. In addition to the support Pugh has received at Forestville Road Elementary, she said her time in the NC State College of Education was important in preparing her to provide effective literacy instruction.

“What we learned at NC State is exactly what we are learning in training right now for how to teach kids to read,” Pugh said. 

Pugh also said the classroom experience she gained as a College of Education student was important in preparing her to be a successful first-year teacher.

“The student teaching that we get at NC State is tremendous,” Pugh said. “We get lots of time in the classroom, and I feel like that is the best way to learn how to teach — by observing other people and observing the students who are learning. NC State did a really good job of giving us lots of opportunities to get into different classrooms at different schools and different grade levels.”

From her earliest field experiences to her first year as a teacher, Pugh has enjoyed playing a role in helping students learn and grow. 

“Just being around the kids and watching their faces when they start to understand things, it makes me so happy,” Pugh said.