Meet a few Charlotte teachers making a huge mark on the community

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Ever have that great teacher who believed in you or helped you get that last problem when you thought you couldn’t? I have had so many over the years that inspired me learn and grow in ways I didn’t think were possible.

There was my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Robertson who was always so impressed by my ability to stay asleep during naptime. She thought everything I did was awesome. And yes, I still love naps.

Mrs. Bridges was my fourth grade teacher who used to give us special awards if we found vocabulary words in a news resource. I was so excited when I found the word frugal in the newspaper and cut it out for her. I think I got a pencil with a fuzzy eraser and couldn’t have been happier. The best part is I will never forget the meaning of that word frugal.

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John Burton was my high school history teacher. He asked a question in class one day and I raised my hand to give him another smart aleck answer. Mr. Burton didn’t say a word but just stopped and stared at me like I had two heads. I really felt like I could crawl under a rock and die. 

I realized right then that I should be taking things more seriously in his class and others. This happened to be at a critical time when I was thinking of dropping out of a magnet program I was in. But his one look made me realize that it wasn’t time to give up. He pushed me to see my potential and was a major reason I ended up staying in the program.


Why does all this matter?

Below are a few stories I have learned about recently that give me chills about the amazing influence of our educators in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Mallory Nix is a teacher at Ashley Park. She has made empathy and kindness a big focus in her classroom this year. One of her students, Martin Garlin, heard about a man whose store was robbed. This 8-year-old boy had $1.04 to his name but he decided to go to this man’s store and give him this money. When asked why he did it Martin said, “he got robbed so I wanted to give it away to him.” The store owner… almost in tears said the boy “restored his faith in humanity.”

How about Kristy Johnson more affectionately known as “Rapper KJ” at Thomasboro Academy who raps to her students to get them excited about learning? I think I could remember integers if my teacher was rapping to “Walk It Out” to help. 

This teacher at Ridge Road Middle School has been engaging students with music and teaching on top of desks to reach the kids in a new way. It was one of the most energizing and exciting classroom environments I have ever seen:


How about Brian Zurhelen at East Mecklenburg High School? As a high school baseball coach, he heard that the one of his students, Christian Dunbar, was having some challenges with his health. Christian was in need of a kidney transplant. 

Brian decided he would donate one of his kidneys to Christian but some testing revealed that he wasn’t a match. Brian could have easily stopped there, but instead he orchestrated a three-way trade to give his kidney to a boy in Michigan so his student could still receive one in return. Christian is now in college studying to be a doctor.

I still shake my head in amazement when I think about this story. So to Brian and all the other teachers out there, thank you. 

And to all of us who have been impacted by a great teacher, would you take time to let them know? Or would you reach out to a local school and see how you could support them? I have really enjoyed volunteering as a reading partner at McClintock Middle School.

Our teachers give us so much. Faith in humanity, kindness, laughs, raps and hope to name a few. I believe we can do more together for our educators. The future of our city and our children might just depend on it. 

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