Job well done

The Carteret County school system’s top employees of the year for 2016-17 are, from left: Brittany Hellriegel, Teacher of the Year; Laranda Taylor, Certified Employee of the Year; Jenny Bell, Wells Fargo Principal of the Year; Kay Zimarino, Assistant Principal of the Year; and Christina Schrader, Classified Employee of the Year. (Cheryl Burke photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — From a high school English teacher to a technology facilitator, the top five county school employees of the year were announced during a special celebration Tuesday night at the Crystal Coast Civic Center.

The Teacher of the Year is Brittany Hellriegel, a ninth grade English teacher at Croatan High School. The 2016-17 Wells Fargo Principal of the Year is Jenny Bell of Morehead City Elementary School. The Assistant Principal of the Year is Kay Zimarino of Croatan High School.

The Certified Employee of the Year is Laranda Taylor, a technology facilitator at East Carteret High School. The Classified Employee of the Year is Christina Schrader, a teacher assistant and bus driver at Bridges School, an alternative school on the campus of West Carteret High School.

Not only were top employees recognized, but so were top students. 

It was all part of the county school system’s annual Celebration of Excellence, an event designed to honor student academic achievements at the state and national levels and outstanding staff accomplishments.

Students were previously recognized with press releases and other celebrations throughout the year.

But winners of the school employee of the year awards didn’t find out until they had won until the announcement was made during the celebration.

Following the announcement of winners, school board chairman Al Hill said, “Congratulations to all our students and faculty for doing an outstanding job.”

Each spring, employees from across the county are nominated by coworkers for recognition in five categories: Principal of the Year, Assistant Principal of the Year, Teacher of the Year, Certified Employee of the Year and Classified Employee of the Year. These nominees are interviewed and the five overall employees of the year are selected.

After their names were announced Tuesday, each walked to the stage to receive their awards.

For Ms. Hellriegel, being selected Teacher of the Year is a tremendous honor.

“This is the ultimate honor I could think of,” she said. “I work in an amazing county, an amazing school and an amazing school system.”

When asked what makes a great teacher, she said, “It’s being dedicated to your students no matter the circumstances, and to see them grow and flourish.”

Ms. Hellriegel added that her high school English teacher, who died of pancreatic cancer, inspired her to become a teacher.

“After he died I decided I wanted to change students lives,” she said.

Ms. Hellriegel is in her fourth year of teaching. She did her student teaching requirement at Croatan in 2011, and was hired at the school in 2012. She has her bachelor’s degree in English education from East Carolina University and is working toward her master’s degree.

She also started the school’s first speech and debate team this year, and two of her students were honored Tuesday for winning state awards.

Principal of the Year, Jenny Bell said she was touched that her colleagues selected her.

“I’m so surprised. I had no idea. I work with so many great colleagues. It’s my staff, parents and students who support me,” she said.

Ms. Bell began her duties as principal of Morehead City Elementary School in 2013. She previously served as an assistant principal at Morehead City Middle School, Smyrna Elementary and Beaufort Middle School. She also served as a teacher at Morehead City Elementary for seven years prior to becoming an administrator.

Ms. Bell holds an undergraduate degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in school administration from East Carolina University.

Assistant Principal of the Year, Kay Zimarino agreed that being selected as an employee of the year was an honor.

I’m shocked and I’m humbled,” she said. “I’m very fortunate to be at Croatan High School and to work in this county. I’m very grateful.”

Ms. Zimarino has served as assistant principal at CHS since 2004. She was hired at the school in 1998 as an art teacher. 

Prior to coming to the county, she worked as an art teacher at Kinston High School, and taught elementary art for six years.

Ms. Zimarino holds a bachelor’s degree in art, and later received her teacher certification from East Carolina University. She earned a master’s degree in school administration from ECU.

Certified Employee of the Year, Laranda Taylor, technology facilitator at ECHS, said she was also grateful to receive recognition.

“I’m so excited and feel so honored. I love what I do and enjoy being there for the teachers and making things go smooth for them,” she said.

Ms. Taylor has worked with the county school system for 20 years, and was originally a middle school math teacher and technology facilitator at Harkers Island School. She has served as technology facilitator at East Carteret High School for five years.

Ms. Taylor received her National Board Certification in 2013, and has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from ECU.

Christina Schrader, who was named Classified Employee of the Year, is a teacher assistant at Bridges School.

“I feel it’s very rewarding, but just helping the students is enough. Everything I do is for the students,” she said.

Ms. Schrader serves as a teacher assistant for all teachers at Bridges School, and also drives a bus.

She has her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Methodist University and is currently pursuing her teaching degree at ECU.

Wells Fargo Company partners with the principal of the year program and Senior Business Relationship Manager Chris McCutcheon announced this year’s selection. Sound Bank sponsors the teacher of the year program and CEO Phil Collins and Sound Bank Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager DeAnna Bousman announced this year’s honoree.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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