5 Teachers Receiving Inaugural "Teachers of Excellence" Award - TribPapers

5 Teachers Receiving Inaugural “Teachers of Excellence” Award

Photo by Kenny Eliason.

Asheville – Our children and their futures are shaped and educated by the innovative, hard-working, and caring teachers who have dedicated their lives to bringing enthusiasm and expertise into the classroom each day.

The Rotary Club of Asheville is a service club of engaged and passionate members who desire to do good in the community and world. They care deeply about the quality of public schools and started the Teachers of Excellence Program to acknowledge exceptional teachers who deserve recognition. The club is awarding $2,000 each to five teachers of excellence.

The following teachers are being recognized for their outstanding commitment to their profession and to their students.

Susanna Cerrato, Ira B. Jones Elementary

Born in Greece to educator parents, Susanna Cerrato grew up in Massachusetts and then moved to NYC for college at Barnard and NYU. Later, she moved to Asheville in 2016, where she has taught at Ira B. Jones Elementary as a 3rd grade teacher ever since. Susanna was named Asheville City Schools District Teacher of the Year in 2020 and the 2021 Burroughs Wellcome Fund NC Western Region Teacher of the Year. In these roles, she spearheaded the creation of the district’s inaugural Educator Advisory Council, formed the Western Region Teacher Leadership Council, and serves on the NC Teacher Advisory Council and the Advisory Board of the North Carolina Education Corps.

Robin Floyd, Avery’s Creek Elementary, interacts with her students, photo submitted.
Robin Floyd, Avery’s Creek Elementary, interacts with her students, photo submitted.

Robin Floyd, Avery’s Creek Elementary

This year marks Robin Floyd’s 30th year in education. She graduated from Carson-Newman and began teaching first grade shortly after. She obtained a master’s degree from the Citadel and worked as a CBE evaluator for her district there. Since moving to North Carolina 17 years ago, she has taught fourth grade at Woodfin Elementary, during which time she was named the Erwin District Teacher of the Year. She is a past recipient of the Teacher of the Year award at ACES and currently serves on the School Improvement Team.

Heather Gast, Weaverville Primary School

Heather Gast is in her 10th year as an educator and is currently teaching kindergarten at Weaverville Primary School. She is a firm believer in making every child’s first year of school a memorable experience where they engage daily in hands-on activities and always feel loved by their class family. She maintains a class garden and composting worm pets that her students care for weekly together. Heather was the Weaverville Primary Teacher of the Year in 2018 and the Mix 96.5 Teacher of the Month in March 2018. She received a Box Top for Education national recognition award in 2020 and is being recognized as the Box Top for Education Teacher of the Month in January 2023.

Aimee Gaston, Hominy Valley Elementary

Aimee Gaston is a teacher at Hominy Valley Elementary School. At the end of this year, she will have completed 23 years of teaching in Buncombe County Schools. After graduating from Enka High School and UNCA, she began her journey as a teacher at North Buncombe Elementary. During her time there, Gaston was awarded National Board Certification and later took a teaching position at Hominy Valley. She has spent the last 17 years teaching kindergarten at Hominy Valley. Gaston believes that education is her calling and the work of her heart.

Jennifer Gortney, Fairview Elementary

This school year marks Jennifer Gortney’s 26th year as an employee of Buncombe County Schools. After graduating from Converse College in Spartanburg, SC, she began teaching at Johnston Elementary and then Fairview Elementary. Gortney taught kindergarten and first grade before settling into second grade for most of her career. Early mathematics education is her passion, and she is pleased to serve as a school and district math team representative. Additionally, she enjoys deepening her own learning by mentoring colleagues and beginning teachers.

Eligibility and Selection Process

Nominees must meet certain criteria, and can be nominated by principals, administrators, parents, students, and even other teachers may nominate their peers.

The Asheville Rotary Club received over 70 applications for this inaugural award.Each nominee packet was evaluated by the selection committee, and ten finalists were selected. Zoom call interviews were conducted with the ten finalists, and it was narrowed down to the final five. These teachers were selected because they demonstrated exemplary teaching ability by having high expectations for student learning, carefully orienting students to lessons, having smooth, efficient classroom routines, forming instructional groups in the classroom to fit instructional needs, having explicit standards for classroom behavior, and using incentives and rewards for students in order to promote excellence.

About the Rotary Club of Asheville

Our club works hard to make a difference in our community and internationally. The Asheville Teachers of Excellence Award Program is just one of twenty projects that combine dollars and sweat equity to improve our community and the world!