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December Board of Education Recognitions

The Kannapolis Board of Education was proud to honor outstanding representatives from around the district at its December meeting. 

Jackson Park Elementary School

Elijah Buck: Elijah Buck is a very hard working young man. He always does what is expected and completes his work on time. He is loving and caring, especially when it comes to his twin sister Alexis. He always looks out for her best interest, even in class. He is very responsible and served faithfully on the flag team during the first quarter where he made sure the school’s flag was put up, taken down, and folded properly every day. He is respectful and is well respected by his classmates and teachers. He always displays traits that make him a model Jackson Park Panther.

Jocelin Munoz: There is a quiet presence about Jocelin that you might think would make her go unnoticed; however, this is not the case.  There is a sweet and quiet spirit about her that attracts friends, calms people, and makes her classmates feel safe and secure.  When she excels at things, there is a slight twinkle in her eye so you know she is proud, but at the same time humble so as not to brag and make others feel bad.  When things are challenging, she will quietly sit and persevere.  Once, a test was quite challenging and Jocelin was struggling.   However, she never gave up and worked until she was successful.  What impressed me most about that event was that afterwards, her classmates came up to hug her and began to tell her how they saw how hard she worked and never gave up.  One student later said, “If Jocelin doesn’t give up, then I won’t either.” 

Jocelin speaks and writes about her family, especially her new baby brother.  She speaks of how she works hard to make them proud of her and how she wants to be an example to them and her new brother.  This attitude is what you would see if you were to spend the day with Jocelin in 5th grade.  In the room, in group work, at lunch, and outside at recess, you would see a student who is kind to all, encourages others, and works to lift her friends up in a positive manner.

Sam Poteat: Something magical must have happened many, many years ago when Sam Poteat’s dad started in Kindergarten here at Jackson Park. Not only was Sam’s dad a Jackson Park Panther, but so was he, and now so is his son Hayden. A legacy was formed, and the Poteat family has been a pivotal part of Jackson Park ever since. When he was notified that the Jackson Park staff had nominated him for this Board of Education recognition, Sam seemed surprised. That makes sense, since Sam is extremely humble and low-key in his service, with his volunteering ranging all the way from working our Book Fair to the very un-glamourous task of organizing Jackson Park’s clothing closet. But that’s very likely why our staff wants to recognize him, because he is so genuine in truly wanting to help our school any way he can, often in quiet ways. He is wonderful with our students, beloved by our staff, but he doesn’t limit his volunteering to the fun, colorful opportunities. And in doing so, he benefits our entire school community immensely and embodies the true meaning of service.

Mercedes Harrington: Kannapolis is full of Wonders! However, if you’d like to also marvel at one of the wonders of the world, all you have to do is watch Mrs. Harrington soothe and facilitate learning in any of Jackson Park’s EC Self-Contained classes as she wonderfully substitute teaches. She has substituted in many other classes in our school too, but her true preference and love is Jackson Park’s EC classes, which should tell you a lot about the kind of person Mercedes is. Mercedes is no stranger to KCS, as she has subbed in our district for many years. And if there was ever a question as to whether Mrs. Harrington has lost her instructional touch or not, just watch the teachers clamor to get her as their sub. They know she will take exceptional care of their kids while they are gone, and they have seen Mercedes’ deep respect for students and each classroom’s instruction. Her calm and patient nature, and vast experience, make her a substitute teacher that any teacher, and any parent, would love to have in their child’s classroom. Mercedes Harrington is a staple at Jackson Park Elementary and KCS, and remains an invaluable asset to our school as she allows instruction to move forward seamlessly in a safe and happy manner whenever called upon.

Bus Driver Alan “Ty” Kinder:  Mr. Kinder can be described as kind, caring and helpful. There has never been a time that we have needed someone to drive an extra run or pick up a student who missed their bus that Mr. Kinder was not ready and willing to jump in and help. He works hard to learn the names of his students. Ty also works as a custodian at Jackson Park elementary when he isn't driving. He takes pride in all that he does and is always on time with a smile on his face. 

Sonya White: Jackson Park is filled with outstanding educators, so when someone stands out the way Sonya White does, they must be special. Sonya is a natural at working with children. She has a very strong instinct and “knack” for being able to work in sync with every Kindergarten, 1st and 4th grade teacher she serves, providing academic support and small group instruction that parallels exactly what is going on in the classroom and what her students need. While being in tune with nine teachers and classrooms is a vast undertaking, she has found a way to make it look easy. Even more importantly, she is able to do it in a way that actually makes each classroom teacher’s job easier, in every way. It truly feels as if there are two teachers in the classroom whenever Sonya is providing academic support. Her relationship with students and teachers is golden, and she is a true leader in our school, both with her TA colleagues and the entire Jackson Park staff. And of course, she continues to show a hidden talent for navigating giant yellow buses around the streets of Kannapolis, quite often these days. She is an instructional assistant that is deeply respected by every teacher at Jackson Park because they know they can trust her to always make great decisions for all our students and genuinely enhance the instruction in every classroom she works in.

Liz Witte: Everyone has known Liz Witte is a leader for a long time.  As a kindergarten teacher at Jackson Park, she’s been the cornerstone of our Kindergarten team in many ways, leading by example as well as simply through very, very hard work in leading her team.  This year however, she’s taken on the challenge of pioneering Jackson Park’s Dual Language Program, working alongside our Spanish Immersion Kindergarten classroom.  In all honesty, working in the Dual Language program equates to about double the work of a regular classroom teacher.  As the first grade level to begin this endeavor at Jackson Park, she and her Spanish classroom counterpart are on a bit of an island.  The challenge is immense, both instructionally and emotionally.

However, Liz Witte and her Spanish counterpart Stephany Lopez have risen to the challenge incredibly.  The work they have put into this program is immeasurable, and has likely consumed most of their waking hours.  And they’re being successful.  As Jackson Park finds its way as a dual language school, our students in the program are thriving and learning bi-lingually.  Not only is this wonderful for the students in this inaugural class, but it has been absolutely pivotal for our school in the success of its launch as a Dual Language and Global Studies school.  

While she already had it, Liz Witte has earned the respect of the entire Jackson Park staff tenfold this year.  Jackson Park will be forever indebted to her for her work in ensuring our dual language program launched successfully, and more importantly, all her Kindergarten students from this year, past years, and future years, will always benefit and look back with love and admiration of their kindergarten teacher.

The Board was also pleased to recognize the Hilbish Ford Teacher of the Month, Denise Butler, Head Start Teacher from McKnight Head Start.

Mrs. Butler is a Teacher with 4-year-old students and has worked for Kannapolis Head Start for the past 20 years.  Mrs. Butler has 4 children; Greg, Summer, Jessica and Jariah, and also has 5 grandchildren.  Mrs. Butler holds an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor’s Degree in Birth through Kindergarten Education.  Currently she is in Graduate School at UNCG where she is majoring in School Administration.

Mrs. Butler works hard to create a classroom atmosphere that is based on community partnerships, structure, stability, and consistency.  She is passionate about helping children learn to solve problems through the use of social stories, social-emotional games, and books that support overall social development.  She says that she believes, “children need committed and dedicated teachers.”  Mrs. Butler has recently been striving to work on diversity and inclusion within her classroom.  She feels it is important that every child has a voice and that every child, no matter what their background, should be heard.  When not working with children, Mrs. Butler enjoys singing at her church.  

We’re extremely proud that Denise is part of our KCS family.  We’re also delighted that Hilbish Ford is honoring her excellence with the Hilbish Ford Outstanding Teacher Award for December. Congratulations!


Janice Cheek: Mrs. Cheek has been a staple to the Head Start community for over 30 years!  During that time, she has dedicated her energy, experience, and education to more than 500 children and families in the Kannapolis community.

Janice began working with Kannapolis Head Start as a teacher assistant in 1996 at Aycock Elementary School.  She later moved into the role of a lead teacher and then with the program to Woodrow Wilson Elementary School before moving to McKnight Child Development Center.  She received her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education during her employment with Kannapolis City Schools and was always ready to learn new ideas and teaching methods.

As a teacher, Mrs. Cheek has worked hard to ensure that her students learned routines and expectations as well as the social-emotional and academic skills necessary to prepare for kindergarten.  She treated each child as an individual and was a role model for her peers in the school.

During the 2020-2021 school year, Mrs. Cheek worked with her three-year-old students completely remotely.  Although virtual education is still relatively new, Mrs. Cheek embraced the technology with gusto and became excited to develop relationships with her students and families in this new way.  Her commitment to excellence has helped Head Start to evolve into the outstanding program that it is now. 

Mrs. Cheek will not only be missed by the Kannapolis Head Start staff, but also by the community.  Her students, families and friends wish her well on her retirement.