NEWS RELEASES 2013-14 :: MARCH 11, 2014


Maria Topliff, an occupational course of study blended English II teacher and an American history instructional leader, has been named the 2014 North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) Teacher of the Year. This is the sixth year that the NCVPS has selected a Teacher of the Year.

Topliff will represent NCVPS in the National Online Teacher of the Year competition. North Carolina's previous three winners were finalists for the National Online Teacher of the Year Award, and NCVPS's Leslie Fetzer was the 2012 national winner.

Topliff said her top priority is making a difference in the lives of her students.

"I believe that teachers have far more influence in students' lives than we can imagine," she said. She also believes that healthy students create a healthy society and that teachers should go beyond just educating them. "Teachers should instill in students the desire to be successful and reach for their dreams. We need to not only educate our students' minds but their hearts so that they can become healthy contributing members of our community."

Topliff is a graduate of George Mason University with a bachelor's degree in English and earned her master's degree in Multicultural Literature and Transitional Languages. Prior to joining the NCVPS, she taught for five years at Northwoods Park Middle School and one year at Dixon Middle School in Onslow County Schools.

NCVPS teachers frequently say that teaching online makes them better classroom teachers, and Topliff is no exception. She credits the NCVPS program, staff and fellow online teachers as the source of her professional growth. "It is the reason I have been able to grow and really hone my craft as a teacher. I would not be the educator that I am today without this unwavering support." NCVPS's commitment to students has greatly impressed her. "Our students have become enthusiastic about learning. They are excited to get online and see what our teachers have in store for them. NCVPS is completely student centered, and the success that they have attained illustrates our student-driven philosophy."

Topliff was one of several teachers nominated by their peers for the Teacher of the Year award. Other nominees were Teryn Odom (world languages), Jan Kerley (art), Jessica Ludders (English) and Darlene Schaefer (credit recovery).

The NCVPS selection process for the Teacher of the Year program is divided into four phases beginning with the call for nominations. From there, nominees participate in a blind selection process that starts with answering a series of initial questions on instructional philosophy and student-centered instruction. The selection committee then narrows the field to five finalists who complete a portfolio of responses and showcase examples of their work that demonstrate their approach to teaching and their beliefs about instruction. The five finalists are then interviewed before the final candidate is selected.

The NC Virtual Public School is the nation's second largest state-led virtual school with over 50,000 enrollments from all 115 school districts and a number of charter schools. The NCVPS offers more than 150 different courses as a supplement to the local high school course catalog including Advanced Placement, Occupational Course of Study, electives, traditional, honors and credit recovery courses. All courses are taught by North Carolina-certified teachers and provide strategies for active student engagement through a variety of technology tools. Teachers are required to make personal contact with students and parents regularly in order to maximize the student- teacher relationship. Courses are free to students who enroll through their local North Carolina public high school. The NCVPS is available to home school and private school students for a small fee. By virtue of online course delivery, students now have access to rigorous courses and high quality teachers regardless of their zip code.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.

For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.