Brittney Lofthouse — Staff Writer

Macon Program for Progress Head Start/NC Pre-K Lead Teacher Amanda Benedict was chosen as North Carolina Head Start Association’s Teacher of the Year on March 15, in Raleigh.

“It is an honor to be named Head Start Teacher of the Year for North Carolina,” said Benedict. “It allows me the opportunity to look back over the years that I have taught and reflect on the positive things, as well as the not so positive things and learn, build, and grow into a better educator. I’m truly blessed.”

Benedict has been with the Head Start program since she graduated from WCU in 2004 with a BS in Elementary Education. She has since earned a Pre- Kindergarten Add-on License and has held a NC Pre-K teacher position longer than any other teacher in Macon County.

Born and raised in Franklin, Benedict graduated from Franklin High School. She attended both Southwestern Community College and Western Carolina University, from where she graduated in 2004.

“After acquiring a teaching position at Macon Program for Progress and working for one year, I went back to school to obtain my Birth to Kindergarten Teaching License,” she said. “I went back to Southwestern Community College, Haywood Community College, University of NC-Pembroke, and then back to Western Carolina University, finally in 2010, I earned my Birth to Kindergarten Teaching License.”

Benedict and her husband Jared have one son named Leighton. Jared is the co-pastor and praise and worship leader at LifeSpring Community Church and Leighton is in the 5th grade at MVI and is involved in Boy Scouts.

Benedict has worked at Macon Program for Progress (MPP) for almost 14 years.
“I started at MPP in August 2004 in an Early Head Start toddler classroom (2 and 3 year olds),” she said. “I worked in that classroom for one year, then I was moved in what was then Head Start/More at Four classroom, which is now Head Start/NC Pre-K working with the 4 and 5 year-year-olds and preparing them for kindergarten. I have been doing this particular job for almost 13 years and I absolutely love it.”
Benedict goes above and beyond in her career. She not only teaches, but serves on numerous committees, helping to shape early education in Macon County and all of North Carolina. Benedict serves on the Professional Learning Community (PLC) with other Head Start/NC Pre-K teachers and the School Readiness Committee.

“I have also been a mentor for NC Pre-K teachers, a cooperating teacher for college students pursuing their Birth-Kindergarten Degree, as well as a host teacher for high school students,” said Benedict.

With more than a decade of experience, Benedict said she has seen education constantly evolve.

“Education has changed dramatically since I started,” she said. “The standards for what children need to know and when they know to know it keeps changing and getting more intense and rigorous. School Readiness Goals have been reviewed and revised and coming in the next school year, STEM is going to be included on our lesson plans as well.”
With the challenges of the education field comes rewards, for which Benedict is thankful.
“My greatest memory working as an educator has to be the relationships that have been established with the children that are in my care currently and in the past,” said Benedict. “Yes, I believe that you have to love children to be an educator, but it goes deeper than that. You form a bond and a connection with the children in your classroom, each different and unique. It’s also about security, trust, consistency, and respect for each other. You also have to have a good communication system and include the families as much as possible, for they are the children’s first teacher and their advocate.”