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Teachers, Employees of the Year Honored at Awards Banquet

Teachers, Employees of the Year Honored at Awards Banquet


Rachel Candaso, who is in her fourth year as an educator at Wellcome Middle School, was named the 2024-25 Pitt County Schools Teacher of the Year during an awards banquet sponsored by the Pitt County Farm Bureau at Rock Springs Center on Tuesday.

Candaso's selection highlighted an event that also recognized runner-up Steven Emory of E.B. Aycock Middle School, two additional finalists for the county's top teaching honor and five classified employees of the year.

Currently serving as an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) teacher and site coordinator, Candaso initially joined the WMS faculty in 2020 as a sixth-grade English/language arts teacher before instructing within the social studies curriculum during the 2021-22 school year. In addition to her engagement in the PCS Teacher Leadership Institute and RISE Fellow programs, she is an active participant in the Teach for America organization and has served as an advisory board, onboarding team and corps member, and storytelling fellow.

Candaso earned bachelor's degrees in political science and criminal justice from Arizona State University and certification in international studies, homeland security and religion & conflict.

She immediately succeeds Ainsley VanBuskirk of Pactolus Global School, who was chosen as the district's 2023-24 teacher of the year.

Emory, a North Carolina Licensed Music Teacher, has directed the school's orchestra, guitar lab and modern band since 2020. His first PCS appointment was in 2010 as a general music and middle school orchestra teacher at Sadie Saulter Elementary and E.B. Aycock Middle Schools, respectively, before heading Belvoir Elementary's music education efforts. Emory is a current member of the National Association for Music Educators and the North Carolina Music Educators Association.

A two-time East Carolina University graduate (bachelor's and master's degrees in music education), he also has been involved in numerous leadership endeavors such as serving as a district mentor and clinical teacher, while completing training in both the PCS Teacher Executive and Leadership Institutes.

Other finalists included Kurt Garner (J.H. Rose High School) and Arthur Nava (Hope Middle School).

Another featured event during the banquet was recognizing five deserving individuals as Pitt County Schools Employees of the Year, which covers various classified staff positions.

Winners honored were 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).