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“Education changes lives!” Chapel Hill High’s Kimberly Jones Reflects on NC Teacher of the Year Honor

By Stuart Phillips, CHCCS Communications Specialist

Kimberly Jones arrived at school on Tuesday morning, April 18, with a big smile and an even bigger ovation awaiting her inside. Just beyond the front doors of Chapel Hill High School, a crowd of staff and students stood in the atrium with flowers, applause and cheers for the newly named Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year.

ToY Honorees with Catherine TruittIt was Jones’ first day back at work since the ceremony, which took place on Friday afternoon, April 14, at the elegant Umstead Hotel in Cary. The banquet hall was packed and electric from anticipation and excitement, with television cameras and high powered lights underscoring the significance of the annual event. 

Ms. Jones’ table included her mother, her husband, Superintendent Dr. Nyah Hamlett and a trio of English teachers at CHHS– Michael Irwin, Kimberly Lindekugel and Joanne McClelland. When Dr. Catherine Truitt announced Ms. Jones as the winner, the entire ballroom erupted in cheers, but the circle of her supporters whooped and shouted the loudest, and there were plenty of joyful tears.

Kim Jones SpeechIn her acceptance speech, Jones spoke of sitting on the porch of the double wide trailer in Erwin, North Carolina, with her mother’s profound and constant influence as her first teacher. “My mother instilled in me a voracious love for learning, an indomitable work ethic, an unshakeable pride in my culture and ancestry, and above all, an enduring call to lead with a servant’s heart.” She spoke of the string of teachers and mentors who prepared her to lead as an English teacher. “I’ve been blessed to benefit from the gift of steadfast educators and rigorous educational opportunities. Education changes lives!”

Jones embodies that simple statement in so many ways. She is a master teacher, brilliant thinker, writer and speaker, much loved colleague and perhaps above all, a multifaceted testament to the power of public education for preparing young people to live successful and fulfilling lives. 

At previous award ceremonies, including for CHCCS Teacher of the Year, as well as Regional, Jones took great care to spotlight and praise her fellow English teachers at CHHS. “To my phenomenal colleagues,” Jones said, “thank you for your unwavering support and encouragement. Your dedication to our students, to our school and community is truly inspiring. I would not be the educator I am today without the motivation, joy, drive and excellence you have brought to my life. You make me a better person, you call me to my highest self, you hold me accountable to my core values and you remind me daily of the privilege and power of our positions as educators.”

The three colleagues who shared in the Umstead celebration have worked with Jones for many years, and they represent a confident and creative team, always quick to credit each other.

Kim Jones with Michael Irwin“Working alongside Ms. Jones is a daily joy,” said Irwin. “She brings the highest level of heart and intelligence into her daily interactions with kids and colleagues. For those who know her well, it's pretty clear that in terms of her professional contributions to education, the best is still yet to come.”

Now Jones will bring her leadership skills, commitment to shared strength and unwavering collaboration to the more than 93,000 public school educators in North Carolina, as she travels the state for the next year. She holds a deep belief in the importance of equity-centered instruction, and she will advocate for increased diversity as new K-12 teachers are hired to serve in rural, urban and suburban schools.

“I am so thankful and honored to have been named the 2023 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year,” Jones said in her closing remarks. “Yet I know the work ahead is not about my work alone. It’s about collaborating with and advancing the efforts of all the dedicated teachers in North Carolina, who pour their hearts and souls into their work every day.”

CHCCS District Headlines stories are written on a regular basis by the CHCCS Division of Communications, with assistance from a network of school-based “storytellers” who share tips and ideas throughout the school year. The goal is to share real-world examples of the CHCCS Strategic Plan in action. Know about a story worth telling from your school? Contact the CHCCS Communications team at