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The Voice of the Black Community


Top teacher considers class a calling
Lynetta Sides-Witherspon earns Charlotte Post honor
Published Wednesday, August 7, 2013 10:14 am
by Ellison Clary, Special to The Post

The Charlotte Post Foundation’s top teacher for 2013 considers her job more that a profession. For Lynnetta Sides-Witherspoon, it’s a calling.                       

“I feel this is my ministry,” she said. “This is not a job for me. It’s what I was created to do.”

Sides-Witherspoon has taught in elementary grades at Westerly Hills Academy School for 12 years, ever since she joined the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools fresh out of Johnson C. Smith University. 

“This is where I want to be,” she says of Westerly Hills Academy. “I think I can see a change in lives, not only in the students, but in the families.”

She will be honored as The Charlotte Post Foundation Teacher of the Year at the Foundation’s “Post Best” banquet on Oct. 12, at the Hilton Center City. Also honored that night will be Charlie Dannelly, a recently retired state senator from Mecklenburg County who is a former teacher and administrator in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. 

Sides-Witherspoon appreciates the difference between being taught something and truly learning it. 

“It’s like learning a new song,” she said. “You know the lyrics, but once you understand the meaning of the song, it’s a whole different realm. It’s one thing to be taught and another to learn.” 

She enjoys watching her students gain understanding. The last two years afforded her a unique opportunity to do so. She was a fourth-grade teacher who followed her class into the fifth grade. She’d like to go along with them to sixth-grade, but will remain where she is. 

“I just like to see light bulbs go off in their eyes,” Sides-Witherspoon said. “I really got to see the light bulb stay on as their fifth-grade teacher from what I did with them in the fourth-grade.”

Originally from Winston-Salem, Sides-Witherspoon earned a master’s in curriculum and supervision from UNC Charlotte in 2007. She earned her National Board Certification in reading in 2010 and license in executive leadership from Gardner-Webb University in 2011. 

For mentors, she names the two principals for whom she has served. First, Westerly Hills Academy Principal Betty Cooper “made me feel like this is where I belong.” Her current principal, Gwen Shannon, “played a major role in molding me and helping me become a great teacher.” She calls Shannon “pretty much a second mother.”

The influence of Cooper and Shannon promises to continue, because Sides-Witherspoon plans to enter training for emerging leaders, perhaps after the current school year. The program prepares participants to be facilitators or assistant principals. Sides-Witherspoon thinks she will be a principal one day. 

If so, that won’t alter the way she sees what she does. 

“I can’t see myself doing anything else but impacting children,” she said, “affecting the lives of our future leaders.”




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