Deanna Cureton's students at Charlotte Engineering Early College (CEEC) have a new name for her: Teacher of the Year. "They've basically replaced my name with that," she said. "It's pretty great."
Cureton is the Teacher of the Year for the Leadership Enrichment Achievement Differentiation Learning Community. "She maintains very high expectations for her students in a supportive classroom environment," said Principal Will Leach. "Also known as 'Momma Cureton,' Deanna truly cares for her students and their success at the next level. There is mutual respect between the teacher and the student."
Cureton teaches English Honors II and serves as the 10th-grade team leader. She joined CEEC last year teaching freshmen and will follow her students all the way to graduation. "It's a great way to see the amazing progress they've made and really develop relationships with students," she said.
To make the announcement, Leach called Cureton to the front office as she was grading papers. She was surprised by fellow faculty members and her family. "My mother, brothers, mother-in-law, husband and daughter were here," she said. "I went from shock to just tears. It was such a surprise."
Being recognized by her peers is particularly special to Cureton. "Sometimes this can be a thankless profession," she said. "I am truly thankful. This validates you are making a difference with the students."
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Cureton earned her bachelor's degree from Winston-Salem State University. She considered studying law, but realized it wasn't the path for her. "It isn't in my personality," she said.
Instead, she earned her master's degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University and began her teaching career at Glenn High in Forsyth County. In 2004, she moved to North Mecklenburg High.
Cureton says that teaching at CEEC has been a learning experience for her. "After 16 years of teaching, it's completely changed the type of teacher that I am," she said. "My lessons are focused on collaboration and project-based learning. It's made me a better teacher. My students have benefited from having a voice and a say and a choice. They're very involved in the learning process."
Cureton also values the unique experience of working in an early college program. "As a first-generation college graduate, access to college courses is so important. We all know people that are struggling to pay off student loans and being able to leave here with up to 60 credit hours is invaluable to our students. This model allows students, regardless of their economic status, to have opportunities to become whatever they want."
Cureton spends her free time with her husband of 12 years and 4-year-old daughter. "She's full of energy and personality," she said. "She knows I won something at work and had cake. She told me she was proud of me."