NC Teacher of the Year from Haywood County

Heather Smith of Haywood County Public Schools was named the 2024 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year on Friday. (Photo courtesy NCDPI)

RALEIGH —Heather Smith, a math teacher from Haywood County Schools, was named the 2024 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year last Friday.  

Smith will take over for Chapel-Hill Carrboro City Schools English teacher Kimberly Jones, who received the honor in 2023. 

The announcement was made at the Umstead Hotel in Cary, where Smith and eight other regional finalists were honored for their remarkable contributions to education. 

“Heather is a change agent for public education — both for her colleagues and for her students. I’m so impressed with how she values the importance of real-world application in day-to-day instruction and how she’s made it a priority to help students see it too,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt. 

Smith’s career has been spent entirely in Haywood County Schools, and she has taught sixth- and eighth-grade math at Waynesville Middle School since 2019. Before her tenure at Waynesville Middle School, Smith worked at Canton Middle School and Clyde Elementary School. An alumna of Western Carolina University, Smith’s commitment to excellence is underscored by her status as a National Board Certified Teacher. 

“Mrs. Smith has an insatiable love of students that can be seen by all she encounters,” said Trevor Putnam, superintendent of Haywood County Schools. “Her competitive nature drives her to be the best for her students each day and she is never content with past accomplishments or service to others.” 

At the heart of Smith’s teaching philosophy is the belief in the power of positive relationships within the classroom. Recognizing the profound impact of fostering an environment where students feel loved, valued and challenged, she advocates for high expectations coupled with unwavering support.  

“I believe that allowing students to think for themselves, discover new things, engage in inquiry-based learning and take responsibility for their learning in the classroom is essential in building 21st-century skills that will help them to excel outside the classroom,” Smith said. 

As Teacher of the Year, Smith will spend the upcoming school year advocating for educators in North Carolina. She will participate in various events, including seminars at the N.C. Center for the Advancement of Teaching and the National Teacher of the Year Conference.  

Additionally, she will attend the International Space Camp and the International Society for Technology in Education conference. Supported by the Digital Learning Initiative and an endowment from Go Global NC, she will also travel abroad.  

Smith will receive a mobile device from Lenovo, an engraved award, financial support to serve as a liaison for North Carolina Public Schools, a monetary award from Bojangles, and a gift from the Carolina Hunger Initiative. She will also be recognized during an NC State football game. 

Video of the ceremony can be viewed on the Department of Public Instruction’s YouTube channel at 

The N.C. Teacher of the Year program in North Carolina began in 1970. Since then, three N.C. Teachers of the Year have gone on to become national teacher of the year winners, five became national finalists and one was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. 

About A.P. Dillon 1294 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_