A long time coming: Christy Simpson is 2023 Teacher of the Year

Teachers all over the United States have always been overlooked and disregarded on how important their job is.

During COVID-19, when teachers taught in front of a screen online, many found that their passion wasn’t the same. But even though there were numerous challenges with online learning and many teachers resigned, Christy Simpson still felt the same spark for teaching she had when she first started 29 years ago.

“I love teaching,” Simpson said. “I still love my job. I haven’t reached the point that I want to do something else, because I still love what I do.”

Simpson said teaching during COVID was hard, but she embraced the challenge.

“It was like being a new teacher all over again, because we had to learn how to do it online,” she said. “But I never wavered from the fact that it is still what I want to be doing.”

Simpson has been teaching math at Riverside for 15 years and now teaches mainly calculus. She grew up in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina and at a young age she was drawn to teaching.

“I’ve just always wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “Even when I was young, that was just what I felt like I wanted to do.I started actually teaching Sunday School at my church when I was in high school.“

She majored in math education at High Point University. There was a stigma about teaching back then, just like there is today.

“It wasn’t very popular. In fact, if you were good in math and science, engineering, those were the big choices,” Simpson said. “So there weren’t a lot of people going into math. I went to a small school, but I was the only math education major, the year I graduated.”

Even though working with children is something some people are not interested in, Simpson says it is one of her favorite parts of the job.

“It’s never a boring day,” she said.

“Some years I took my name out of the running because I’ve looked at the list of teachers nominated and I say ‘you know, it’s their turn’. But I’m glad I didn’t this year.”

Christy Simpson

Simpson fondly recalls a comment she received from a calculus student several years ago.

“He said ‘Somehow you make this class both hard and fun at the same time,’” she said. “We just thought of our goal as educators, right? We want to challenge our kids then push them to do really hard things. But we want them to enjoy the process.”

Once a year, teachers get nominated for the Teacher of the Year award. Simpson was one of several nominees, and principal Gloria Woods-Weeks, along with assistant principals Will Okun and Darryl Bradshaw, Tammy Patterson, administrative intern Bryan Garnett and social studies teacher Allison Swaim, surprised her with balloons and flowers and a confetti cannon on March 2 during one of her classes.

“I didn’t see her come in,” Simpson said. “I just heard the confetti cannon go off. And so for a minute, I was terrified. Because I just heard the loud boom. It was exciting, once I realized what the noise was. I was very surprised, but honored.”

Simpson has been nominated in past years but believed her colleagues deserved the award more.

“Some years I took my name out of the running because I’ve looked at the list of teachers nominated and I say ‘you know, it’s their turn,’” she said. “But I’m glad I didn’t this year.”

Simpson believes that when you are really passionate about something and you truly love something, it doesn’t matter what obstacles you face, that same spark will be with you no matter how long it’s been.

“It is an honor to be recognized by your colleagues for doing a job that you love to do every day,” Simpson said.

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