DOBSON — Surry County Schools Central Office Staff and Board of Education members visited Surry Early College High School and Franklin Elementary School Friday in their version of the “Prize Patrol” to announce Principal of the Year (POY) and Teacher of the Year honors. (TOY) The Early College’s Celia Hodges was named principal of the year, and Franklin Elementary’s Pedro Caro was honored as teacher of the year.
Hodges entered a packed auditorium to be surprised by the board, staff and students. Members of the selection committee were on hand to say they were impressed with the level of commitment exhibited by Hodges.
“The reason I am here is because of all of you,” said a surprised Hodges, who came rushing in because she had been told a student had collapsed. The ceremony was marked by Hodges sharing memories and stories with many of the students. She also thanked her staff for their support.
“It is such a family atmosphere between students and staff at this school,” commented School Board Vice Chairman Brian Gates. “It’s just like family and every family needs a mother. (He gestured to Hodges) Here she is.” Student Alex Simones shouted “We love You” to Hodges and said she was “like a second mom.”
Selection committee member Terry Marcum recalled how early on in the interview process students’ stories touched her heart.
“You know when you cry you have tears that dry and leave spots on the inside of your glasses,” said Marcum. “I had those salty spots. It was clear we made a good decision.”
Hodges began her career at Surry County Schools as an eighth-grade science teacher at Central Middle School in 1990. She next served as a science teacher at North Surry High School in 1991. Hodges also served as a curriculum specialist at Pilot Mountain and Meadowview middle schools and became an assistant principal at Dobson Elementary School in 2007. She has been the Early College principal since 2008.
Hodges and her husband, Greg, have two children, Cody and Lauren. The family are members of Grace Moravian Church. In her application portfolio, she wrote that since becoming Early College principal she has worked closely with the North Carolina New Schools Project, making her school a model for other early colleges to visit. She said the school’s greatest accomplishment is its zero percent dropout rate for the past two years.
In her application, Hodges gave credit to her parents for her education. She praised them for offering an education outside of the traditional setting through many travel experiences. She wrote that her father was a high school science teacher with a passion for history. She holds a B.S. in secondary science education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Gates later commented about how Franklin once again captured teacher of the year honors. Last year’s teacher of the year, Janie Martin, was on hand to “relinquish her crown” to fourth-grade teacher Pedro Caro. In his portfolio application, Caro recalled a milestone in his life.
“At age 10, my life took a 360-degree turn. I woke up one day to surprising, yet shocking news,” wrote Caro, who explained how his father told the family they were going to the United States. He recounted how the family faced the “ultimate” Unites States border.
“(This was) a border fortified by border patrol agents, a tall barbed wire fence and a never sleeping Rio Grande,” wrote Caro. “At around 3 a.m. our plan was to take advantage of the two to three minute window when guards changed their early morning shifts….to this day I can very vividly remember holding with all my strength to the railing of the bridge as we tried to quickly clear the river.”
The family’s contact picked them up but police pulled over the vehicle for a malfunctioning tail light near Houston, Texas, and they were deported back to Mexico. Two months later on a third attempt Caro’s family made it to Florida. Caro later overcame language barriers and obtained a B.S. in political science only to return to agriculture because of a racial “glass ceiling.” He became a U.S. Citizen and earned his teaching license after three more years of college. He wrote that the ridicule and cruelty he encountered growing up is one thing that drives his desire to be a teacher and show genuine care for all students.
Fourth-grade student Alex Horton insisted on submitting his own letter of reference for Caro. He wrote that Caro is exciting and different than other teachers because he teaches students new songs and rhymes to remember things they learn.
“Mr. Caro puts us in teams of two and rewards us for working together,” wrote Horton. “The best thing Mr. Caro does is give us time each day to get our wiggles out.”
Caro wrote in his application that he has a mother country and a father country. He wrote that Mexico is his mother country and is where he inherited who he is, his culture and values.
“Yet my mother country, my community failed to provide opportunities for my family and I,” wrote Caro. “The United States is my father country. Who like a good father has provided and continues to provide unlimited opportunities. For this and other reasons, I have the deepest gratitude to my father country. America is a country that I have embraced as my home and Surry is the county that I have embraced as my family. So to pay it forward, I make it a priority to give back to my community.” Caro and his wife, Erendida, have two children, Abygail and Ilihanie.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.