Derek Chase's love for nature took him to science, but his desire to teach others got him the honors of being Catawba County Schools' 2011-12 Teacher of the Year.
Chase, a science teacher at Bunker Hill High School, received top honors during a ceremony at Newton Expo on Thursday.
"I am surprised and honored by this (award)," Chase said. "It's a privilege to be a teacher in Catawba County."
Chase said being a teacher is more than helping students learn. He said it's about being a mentor and encouraging students to make the right decision.
Chase was chosen from a list of 28 teachers, who were selected from schools within CCS.
"You are all winners," said CCS Superintendent Glenn Barger. "Catawba County is blessed, truly blessed, with outstanding educators."
Barger also expressed how the elementary teacher of the year is someone who "believes teaching is not just a job."
Lorie Fox, of Snow Creek Elementary School, was named Elementary Teacher of the Year. Fox's teaching style was described as one that "goes beyond textbooks," and she's known for treating every student as she does her daughter and recognizes a child is "someone's baby."
"As a teacher, my attitude speaks volumes," Barger read from Fox's mission statement. "I want students to feel safe and to know they are important."
The Secondary Teacher of the Year was Jeanne Laws, of River Bend Middle School. Laws was described as someone who "loves her job and adores students."
"She makes sure every student is successful," Barger said.
Each of the 28 teachers selected from the individual schools received a plaque and a tote full of supplies for their classrooms.
Other teachers recognized Thursday were first-year teachers of the year. Out of five selected teachers, Beverley Pittman, of Oxford Elementary School, received the award as Outstanding First Year Teacher.
Barger said Pittman started her first year by reviewing each of her student's work from previous years and speaking to teachers about the child's abilities. Pittman is also known for working one-on-one with parents to make sure each child is exploring critical thinking skills in the classroom, as well as at home.
Pittman also strives to treat each student fairly because she realizes her role in a child's life will last a lifetime.
"Things I say to a student can have the greatest impact," Pittman's mission statement reads.