Reuellyn “Reu” Pletcher Thomas draws from her education and experience in biology, genetic counseling and Christian education when she teaches seventh grade science classes at North Wilkes Middle School.
Mrs. Thomas combines this diverse background with genuine interest and excitement about what she teaches to create a classroom experience that helped make her this year’s Wilkes County teacher of the year.
Her selection was announced Monday night during a banquet at the Stone Family Center for Performing Arts in North Wilkesboro.
As a prenatal genetic counselor at Emory Genetics Laboratory in Decatur, Ga., in 1997 and 1998, she counseled couples with abnormal prenatal screening results. Mrs. Thomas has a bachelor of science degree in biology from Wofford College in 1995 and a masters of science degree in genetic counseling from Medical College of Virginia in 1997.
She was engaged in Christian education and missions projects as director of youth and program ministries at First United Methodist Church in Elkin from 1999 through 2006. She has a master of arts degree in Christian education from Pfeiffer University in 2001.
“After seven years, I decided I wanted a change and I had gotten married, so I went for career number three,” said Mrs. Thomas. She had already worked as a substitute teacher in the Elkin schools to “test the waters.”
She launched her career as a seventh grade science teacher in 2006 at East Wilkes Middle School and transferred from East Wilkes to North Wilkes Middle in 2009.
Mrs. Thomas said all the pieces of her professional background come together and help her explain challenging seventh grade science concepts in simpler, more understandable terms.
The seventh grade science curriculum includes genetics, human body systems, physics (motion and forces) climate and weather and scientific inquiry and measurement.
“I like what I teach and my students know it,” she said, explaining that this helps students enjoy it also and learn.
“Seventh grade is such a transition year for students. I use a lot of humor with discipline and I choose my battles carefully,” said Mrs. Thomas.
“I’m fortunate because I work with really good people” on the faculty and staff at North Wilkes Middle. She said she and William Bowers, who teaches seventh grade math and science, have a good time working together as they plan and teach.
Mrs. Thomas said she couldn’t do what she does without the help of her husband, Ryan Thomas, because they have a 4½-year-old daughter, Abby, a 2½-year-old son, Matthew, and she is seven months pregnant with their third child.
“He gets them where they need to be every morning and he does it with a smile on his face,” she said.
She also thanked the school administration.
Laws said he knew Mrs. Thomas when he was superintendent of Elkin City Schools and was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Elkin and that he was glad she decided to be a teacher in the Wilkes schools.
North Middle Principal Westley Wood said Mrs. Thomas has many of the qualities that make an excellent teacher. “She is a strong teacher and models relationship building skills with students. She demonstrates care and compassion for all her students.”
The process of selecting the teacher of the year begins with the School Improvement Team for each Wilkes school nominating as many as three teachers. After the principal confirms that each nominee is eligible, the licensed staff members at each school vote and the nominee with the most votes wins for that person’s school.
A county selection committee composed of a Wilkes school board member, Wells Fargo/Wachovia bank representative, the previous year’s teacher and principal of the year and a community resident interview each school representative. The committee also examines a resume and write-up (limited to 25 words) for each school winner.
The committee then picks five finalists and observes these five in their classrooms and examines a portfolio presented by each to determine the winner.
The five finalists this year, in addition to Mrs. Thomas, were Aaron Simmons of East Wilkes High School, Christy Johnson Jolly of Moravian Falls Elementary, Ben Bailey of North Wilkes High and Kristi Day of Traphill Elementary.
Mrs. Thomas will now compete with teachers of the year from other school systems in northwestern North Carolina for regional teacher of the year. These include the Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Davie, Elkin, Hickory City, Iredell-Statesville, Mooresville City, Mount Airy City, Newton-Conover City, Rowan-Salisbury, Stokes, Surry, Watauga, Winston-Salem/Forsyth and Yadkin school systems.
Each teacher of the year nominee received various gift certificates and other items donated by local businesses. The person named teacher of the year also received $1,000 from Wachovia, a mini laptop from the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce and a 32-inch flat screen TV from Sharp.