Table Rock’s Amy Zittel named Teacher of the Year

Table Rock’s Amy Zittel named Teacher of the Year
Posted on 04/08/2022
Morganton, NC – Friday, April 8, 2022

Amy Zittel, an exceptional children’s teacher at Table Rock Middle School, has been named the Burke County Public Schools 2022 Teacher of the Year. Zittel is in her 30th year of teaching and her second year with Burke County Public Schools and Table Rock Middle School. She affectionately calls her students her “littles,” which rhymes with the pronunciation of her last name.

Burke County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Swan, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Karen Auton and Interim Director of Secondary Education Debbie Jennings surprised Zittel with the announcement, balloons and flowers on Thursday morning in her classroom at the school. Zittel will also receive a vehicle to drive for a year.

Swan said Zittel is well deserving of the honor. He said, “All you have to do is step into Mrs. Zittel’s classroom to instantly feel her passion for her students and her enthusiasm for what she does. Mrs. Zittel truly cares about her students and giving them the opportunities they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.”

Originally from California, Zittel is a graduate of California State University Bakersfield. After moving to North Carolina to be closer to family, she spent a year teaching at West McDowell Middle School before taking on her current assignment at Table Rock.

Zittel said of receiving the honor, “I am very humbled and excited to have been chosen as Burke County Teacher of the Year. I have a passion for teaching and helping all students to succeed. I love my school family and students so much. I work with the absolute best administrators, counselors, teachers, teacher's aides, custodians, office staff and parents. I could not do my job without their support of my daily goal, which is to inspire students everyday to do their best in school but most importantly in their lives. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

Zittel credits her mom, a former teacher’s aid, for gifting her with a heart for special education students. She said, “I had spent many Augusts preparing mom’s classroom for the year. I was raised around special education students and loved them.”

Zittel said she thought she was prepared for her first years of teaching but soon realized “teaching is not a sprint, but a marathon.” She said, “The wisdom and skills gained over a diverse career can not be conveyed in one year, or two years. The years of wisdom have improved my skills and sharpened my direction. I am proud of the mother, teacher, co teacher, mental health professional, coach, life coach, counselor, and trusted friend I have become to my students. It has been a wonderful journey and there are still years to come.”

Zittel advises new teachers to be patient, soak up the knowledge from others and hang in there. She said, “New teachers start with a good solid core and a heart of gold. Each year and class adds another layer of skin. Administrators, parents, and counselors will teach you lessons and add layers. It takes time. Give it time. Remember, sometimes onions stink and some years are better than others. Don’t give up and just keep layering.”

Across the hall from her classroom, Zittel has created a sensory room for her students. They call it “camp” and use it as a place to pile up on comfy pillows, jump on a mini trampoline or take a break in a tent. It is also a place where she teaches them practical lessons, including a token economy system, on how to be contributing members of the community. Zittel also gets family and the community involved in her classroom through guest speakers and parent events. She said a positive that came out of COVID-19 for her and her students is communication and teamwork between her and her students’ parents. She said, “The collaboration and the relationships we foster with our students are the backbone of the community. Simply put, students that trust us, learn for us. Students that trust us, respect adults in positions of authority. Students that trust us, learn social skills and grow up to be productive members of our community. Students that learn to trust adults are able to make more positive choices.”

Table Rock Middle School Principal Rich Linens said, “Mrs. Zittel made an immediate impact in our school when she came here last year. She is a tireless advocate for her students, and they have grown and thrived under her classroom leadership. We are so fortunate to have her as a part of the Table Rock team.”

Table Rock Middle School Assistant Principal Lori Westefield said, “Mrs. Zittel cares for her students and wants the best for them. She advocates for them everyday and celebrates their successes. Table Rock is fortunate to have Mrs. Zittel.”

The Burke County Board of Education will recognize Zittel and each schools’ individual teacher of the year at Monday’s board meeting.
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