As teachers and staff return to in-person learning this week, two CMS educators are making district history. CMS is in a unique position to have both the Southwest Regional winners for Teacher and Principal of the Year in our district. Cece Sizoo-Roberson, math teacher at Piedmont IB Middle, is a finalist for N.C. Teacher of the Year, and Rocky River High Principal Ericia Turner is a finalist for N.C. Principal of the Year.
Both wins were announced virtually with small, scaled-back celebrations. “My family jokes that I am very lucky this happened to me this year,” said Sizoo-Roberson. “I have really struggled with being the center of attention. When I saw Kim Tuttle became teacher of the year in 2019, I saw what a big celebration that was. I am not sure how comfortable I would have been with that.”
Turner has similar sentiments. “I am kind of glad it happened the way it did,” she said. “I certainly don’t do this job alone, and the ones that cared about me the most were part of the celebration. I do wish the students could have been there, but I think the district did a great job of making me feel celebrated.”
Both women are still humbled by being chosen to represent their regions. “It is a unique time to be able to advocate for teachers and reimagine what school looks like now,” said Sizoo-Roberson. “It is exciting to be a part of some conversations with teachers throughout the state about what is happening in their districts.”
As a naturally introverted person, Turner was at first uncomfortable with the recognition. “But I am taking the lead from Superintendent Earnest Winston who said he is becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. I am getting there,” she said. “With COVID-19, I am asking our teachers to follow me to a place I’ve never been before. My teachers trust me. We always say education is ever-changing and now we are really changing. And we get to lead the charge. Education will never go back to the way it used to be. I am excited.”
Both finalists are excited about being the voice for other teachers and principals throughout the state. “This is something I think about every day,” said Sizoo-Roberson. “The pandemic has revealed that teachers have different concerns and opinions. I am representing all teachers. My opinions don’t reflect those of every teacher. I think it is really important to colleagues that put me in this position to be true to who I am and what I think is just. I represent voices outside of my own.”
Turner is also aware that she’s representing all principals. “I don’t really feel pressure,” she said. “I am a woman of faith, and I feel like my whole life has prepared me for times such as this. I am representing principals that I don’t even know. I am prepared to do whatever I need to do to represent them, and I hope I do it well.”
Both Sizoo-Roberson and Turner returned this week to in-person learning for the first time in nearly a year. And they are both excited.
“I am tired of talking to big people,” said Turner. “I need the little people. You rarely see me in my office. I love to be out with the students. I can’t wait to do that again.”
And Sizoo-Roberson is excited about hearing her students’ laughter again. “Any teacher out there will tell you that it’s soul draining not to be with our kids that we care about so much. I can’t wait to have students in front of me and hear them laugh again.”