Alumna Named National First Year Teacher of the Year

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Cato College of Education alumna Haley McNeill has been honored with the First Year Teacher of the Year Award by Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) and the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE).

McNeill graduated in January 2021, earning a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with Honors. She recently completed her first year of teaching second grade at Blythe Elementary School in Huntersville, North Carolina, which laid the groundwork for receiving this prestigious award. She also is currently enrolled in UNC Charlotte’s M.Ed. program in elementary education.

As part of the application, McNeill submitted a mathematics lesson on comparing numbers using place value. In her instruction, she strives to meet the varying needs of all her students by differentiating instruction. “Teaching is not a one-size-fits-all approach; therefore, my students may receive different tools in order to have the same opportunities,” she stated.

Already showing her leadership capabilities, McNeill will serve on the second grade Mathematics Teacher Leader Cadre for her district this school year. Felisa A. Simpson, Principal of Blythe Elementary, stated, “Ms. McNeill has a take-charge personality. She has consistently demonstrated the ability to work well with others.”

Beyond being a leader, McNeill has a true enthusiasm for and commitment to the teaching profession. “I love being in the classroom and I love sharing my passion of learning with my students,” she said. She feels a personal commitment to the teaching profession and is always looking for ways to better herself and her instruction. Principal Simpson added, “Ms. McNeill often transforms her classroom to make learning come alive and ensures learning is not only fun but rigorous.”

McNeill also strives to create an empathetic environment that allows her students to safely share their thoughts and feelings, in turn helping them to better learn. She feels that some of the major issues facing education today are equity and justice, and she takes responsibility for ensuring all students feel safe, valued, and respected in her classroom. “I set the tone for social justice through classroom discussions and encourage my students to think critically about the world around them and challenge one another’s assumptions,” she said.

Since the award’s establishment in 1994, KDP and ATE have named a very select few from around the country as National Student Teacher/Intern of the Year. The award recognizes one student teacher/intern annually who has demonstrated the ability to plan and develop classroom management skills and instructional strategies that support all students; establish interpersonal relationships with students, parents, faculty, and staff; and reflect powerfully on their student teaching experience.

About Kappa Delta Pi

Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) is a 501c3 organization with a mission to inspire and equip teachers to thrive. Founded in 1911, the organization doubles as a professional association and honor society—providing programs, services, and resources to its member educators to support and enhance their professional growth. Currently comprised of 700 active chapters and 35,000 active student and professional members, KDP has more than 1.2 million alumni. Visit for more information.

About the Association of Teacher Educators

The Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) was founded in 1920 and is the only national, individual membership organization devoted solely to the improvement of teacher education for both school and campus-based teacher educators. ATE members represent over 650 colleges and universities, 500 major school systems, and the majority of the state departments of education. Visit for more information.