Mary Kathryn Fashjian, Central Learning Community Teacher of the Year

Mary Kathryn Fashjian has two hobbies she incorporates into her classroom: reading and gardening. She started a book club for Dilworth Elementary teachers. "I tell my students you have book clubs, so do your teachers," she said. "I love to read books and talk about them."

Fashjian, a fourth-grade teacher, also has a garden outside the window of her classroom. "It's good stress relief for me," she said. "We were growing kale for our class rabbit but the squirrels got it. I guess we are going to have to start again."

The Charlotte native is the 2017 Central Learning Community Teacher of the Year. "They told me they would announce the winner on Thursday," said Fashjian. "So I was quite surprised when they made the announcement in Wednesday's staff meeting. It was amazing because I had no idea."

Knowing that she was chosen by her peers for this honor makes Fashjian "feel incredible. I get to work with the most amazing people in this school. I've learned so much from the people I work with. It feels great to know they have my back."

Mary Kathryn Fashjian_01.jpgFashjian is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and joined Dilworth immediately after graduation. She is now in her fifth year at the school. "I love Dilworth because it is truly a neighborhood school," said Fashjian. "Most of our students walk to school. I didn't have that experience growing up. They are already in a community spirit when they get here."

She grew up wanting to be a journalist, but changed her mind as she got older. "I didn't think I had the right traits to be a journalist," she said. "I decided to use my passion for writing and reading to work with kids." Many of her peers agreed that teaching was a good fit.

Fashjian started volunteering with children and soon learned she loved working with them. "I love their personalities and watching them develop and grow. They're tiny little humans still figuring out who they are and I love being a part of that."

She also loves a challenge. Several years ago, a spirited student was assigned to her class. "They gave me a warning about his energy," she said. "He just really could not sit still. He bounced around the room all the time. Well, I can relate to that. I have a hard time sitting still too. So I would bounce around with him. And while we were bouncing, we would talk about things he was learning.

That student is now in seventh-grade and his mother occasionally checks in with Fashjian. "She says he's doing great in school and thanks me for helping him. He's a student I will never forget."

Fashjian also cherishes the moments when her students truly grasp something new. "When I look out and see confusion, I keep going and going and then we have what I call the 'oooh' moment. Little lightbulbs are going on all over the place as they figure it out. Whether it takes 30 minutes or two days, when they get it, I know that's why I am here."