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### Banquet Celebrates Outstanding Teachers and Employees Recognized by Pitt County Schools

GREENVILLE, N.C. — Pitt County Schools celebrated its Teacher of the Year and acknowledged other outstanding individuals at a special awards banquet held on Tuesday.

During the event sponsored by the Pitt County Farm Bureau at Rock Springs Center, Rachel Candaso, a dedicated educator at Wellcome Middle School for four years, was announced as the 2024-25 Pitt County Schools Teacher of the Year. This recognition was the highlight of the evening, which also commended the runner-up, Steven Emory from E.B. Aycock Middle School, two additional finalists for the top teaching award in the county, and five classified employees of the year.

Rachel Candaso, currently an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher and site coordinator, initially joined WMS in 2020 as a sixth-grade English/language arts teacher before transitioning to the social studies curriculum in the 2021-22 academic year. Apart from actively participating in programs like the PCS Teacher Leadership Institute and RISE Fellow, she is also deeply involved in the Teach for America organization, holding roles such as advisory board member, onboarding team member, corps member, and storytelling fellow.

Candaso holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and criminal justice from Arizona State University, along with certifications in international studies, homeland security, and religion and conflict resolution. She succeeds Ainsley VanBuskirk of Pactolus Global School, the district’s 2023-24 teacher of the year.

Steven Emory, a licensed Music Teacher in North Carolina, has been leading the school’s orchestra, guitar lab, and modern band since 2020. With a background in music education, Emory has been an integral part of the school community, serving in various music teaching roles at different schools within the district. He is an active member of the National Association for Music Educators and the North Carolina Music Educators Association.

As a two-time graduate of East Carolina University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education, Emory has engaged in leadership roles such as district mentor and clinical teacher, while completing training in both the PCS Teacher Executive and Leadership Institutes.

The other finalists for the Teacher of the Year award were Kurt Garner from J.H. Rose High School and Arthur Nava from Hope Middle School.

Additionally, the banquet recognized five exemplary individuals as Pitt County Schools Employees of the Year across different classified staff positions.

The winners included Gwendolyn Barnes from Northwest Elementary School (office/clerical), Kokeetha Barnes from Lakeforest Elementary School (custodian), Regina Chappell from H.B. Sugg Elementary School (teacher assistant), Anna Howell from Ayden Middle School (school nutrition employee), and Jacqueline Blount from D.H. Conley High School (school nutrition assistant manager).