Old Town teacher wins Waddill Excellence in Teaching Award
By Kim Underwood Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
AUGUST 20 – Laura Bilton spent her first day back at Old Town Elementary after the summer break receiving a standing ovation and a check for $10,000. Now that’s the way to start a new school year.
Bilton, who teaches second grade, is one of only two teachers in the country receiving the 2012-13 Marcellus Waddill Excellence in Teaching Award. The award, given each year to two Wake Forest University graduates who have gone into teaching, comes with $20,000 that the teachers - one at the elementary level and one at the secondary level – can use however they want. Bilton received the first of two installments today.
Although Bilton knew that she had won the award, she had no idea that Mary Lynn Redmond, a professor and the chairwoman of the Department of Education, was going to drop by to present a check while all the teachers were meeting in the media center on the first teacher workday of the 2012-13 school year. After Redmond talked about why the committee had chosen Bilton, her fellow teachers gave her a standing ovation.
“That was amazing,” Bilton said. “I felt very honored.”
Asked later what makes Bilton a good teacher, Jenny Wallace, who also teaches second grade, said: “She treats all of her kids equally and fairly and wants the best possible education for each of them. She holds them all to high expectations.”
Vivia Scales, who teaches first grade, said that she also appreciates how well Bilton works with other teachers and her enthusiasm. “She showed that passion,” Scales said.
Bilton’s husband, Scott, is also a teacher. He teaches U.S. history and coaches soccer at West Forsyth.
Bilton was born in Minneapolis. When she was 10, her father, David Hurd, who is oncologist, went to work for Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. She finished up elementary school at Jefferson Elementary before going on to Paisley IB Magnet and Mount Tabor High. Bilton had originally pictured herself leaving town to go to college. After learning more about Wake Forest and deciding that it would be a good fit, she chose to go there. Her freshman year, she found herself in the same Spanish class five mornings a week with her sister, Julie, who was a sophomore.
When Bilton was growing up, she had considered becoming a teacher but decided to go into banking. She graduated from Wake Forest in 2001 with a degree in business and a minor in religion. She was working in a bank in Greenville when she met Scott, who was working in another bank. After a couple of years in banking, she decided that she wanted to become a teacher.
“The thing I enjoyed abut banking was when I was able to help someone understand how the system works,” she said.
Bilton earned a master’s degree in elementary education at East Carolina University. As it happened, her husband also decided to pursue a career in teaching. They both taught in Greenville for a couple of years before a job offer for Scott at West Forsyth brought them to Forsyth County. The Biltons, who live in Lewisville, now have a 2-year-old daughter, Hailey.
Bilton, who has been at Old Town six years, taught first grade before switching to second grade. She likes both grades. “This is a great age to teach,” she said. “Kids really want to learn and they get excited about everything.”
She also enjoys seeing how much progress they make during the course of a year.
The Waddill Award was established in 1994 by the family of Marcellus Waddill, an emeritus professor at Wake Forest, as a way to honor him. After Bilton was nominated for the award, she had to submit a package of materials that included a video of her teaching. Redmond, who served as chairwoman of the awards committee, said that after watching the video, everyone on the committee talked about “Laura’s great ability to meet the needs of very diverse learners.”
They also noted her “her obvious passion for teaching and ensuring that her students are successful.”
Charlie Wall, the assistant principal at Old Town, said that Bilton really cares about her students and what they’re learning. “She meets them where they are.”
Rusty Hall, who is starting his first year as principal at Old Town, met Bilton this summer. “From what I have seen so far, she is a wonderful teacher,” he said.
The timing of the recognition gave everyone a boost, Hall said. “To have the opportunity to kick off the school year this way was nice.”
Bilton joins several other WS/FCS teachers who have won the Waddill Award, including Jayne Grubbs of Caleb’s Creek Elementary and Heather King of West Forsyth High in 2011; Amy Talley of Ashley Elementary in 2010; Brian Rudel of Caleb’s Creek in 2009; Wendy Bartlett of Parkland High in 2008; Kristen Duplessie Ring of Mount Tabor High in 2006; and Jonathan Milner of the Career Center in 2002.