Will Edwards, center, a science teacher at Hunt High School, has been named a 2017-18 Kenan Fellow. He is pictured with Randall Barnes, president of the Wilson County Farm Bureau Federation, left, and Susan Barnes, a member of the state board of the North Carolina Farm Bureau.
Drew C. Wilson | Times
By Drew C. Wilson
Times Staff Writer
Will Edwards, a science teacher at Hunt High School and a 2017-18 Kenan fellow, is locally grown in the Rock Ridge community.
Edwards, a 2005 graduate of Hunt High School, is one of 25 North Carolina teachers selected to participate in the prestigious Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership at N.C. State University.
Edwards teaches biology and Advanced Placement biology at Hunt High School, where he has been for the last eight years.
“I was born and raised in Rock Ridge. I went to Rock Ridge (Elementary School), Springfield (Middle School) and Hunt and N.C. State. I got my degree, came right back and started teaching at Hunt and then went and back and got my master’s at N.C. State in nutrition.”
Edwards just returned from a week-long retreat in Cullowhee at the Kenan Fellows Professional Advancement Institute at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching.
“Being around professionals that share my passion for teaching and share my passion for just being motivated in my field was really rewarding,” Edwards said. “You don’t often get to experience that many professionals in one room that have that same degree of passion. The tools that they provided us to help out with our classrooms and to incorporate things within our own personal lives, our teaching lives, our networking with people, our leadership skills, that was awesome.”
As a Kenan fellow, Edwards will have the opportunity to engage in an immersive summer internship with the Wilson County Farm Bureau and local agricultural businesses. He will be learning how farmers use technology and be able to translate what he learns into curriculum that can be presented to students.
“It’s a lot more than something having to do with agriculture,” said Randall Barnes, president of the Wilson County Farm Bureau Federation. “It’s all industries. The fellowship is like a $24,000 expense and we have to pick up $15,000.”
Edwards was chosen after a competitive application process.
“I am humbled. I am truly blessed to be a part of that,” Edwards said. “I know a lot of people who applied for this and they are great teachers and excellent individuals and to be selected among that group of people means a lot.”
“He said he had a passion for agriculture from his grandfather,” said Susan Barnes, head of the Wilson County Women’s Committee and a member of the North Carolina Farm Bureau board.
Edwards’ passion for agriculture is what set him apart from the other applicants, according to Susan Barnes.
“We want to immerse him in is Wilson agriculture,” she said.
“I just want people to see that coming back to a small town isn’t a bad thing. It’s a great thing,” said Edwards. “There are so many opportunities in the connections that you build and the networks with the people that you know. Wilson is just a great place to be.”
Edwards is still in the planning stages of his fellowship. One initiative he wants to start is a science fair for high school-age kids where they can compete to find new uses of technology in agriculture.
“My biggest initiative is just to really push the importance of agriculture and the importance that Wilson has on agriculture beyond just this community, but globally,” Edwards said. “There are job opportunities in agriculture in Wilson. You can get that degree and come back and share your experiences within this community and improve upon this community.”
“William has that passion for education and we just want him to have the best experience in Wilson County and Wilson County agriculture as he can,” said Barnes. “I am just excited about William and his passion. His ideas blow me away. We are thankful that we are able to give him that $15,000.”
“This is one opportunity that we think is going to help benefit the county not only on the agriculture side but as a whole,” said Tadashi Totten, district field representative for Wilson County with the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation. “We look forward to working with him and kind of guiding him with the potential great work he is going to provide for Wilson County.”
Norman Harrell, director of the North Caroline Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County, one of the locations where Edwards will be spending some time, said he was heartened to hear the teacher’s interest and excitement level.
The Kenan program is all about helping teachers to build their skills and leadership abilities, which is so important in society today, Harrell said.
“I was also really excited about his comments about building interest in agriculture among our high-schoolers because we do need that next wave of workers to enter the agriculture field,” Harrell said. “We need young people to get excited about agriculture and to realize the career possibilities that are there. As we all push for education and we want out kids to go receive a higher education, oftentimes those opportunities take them other places, but it is really good to hear that he found an interest to come back to Wilson. He sees the benefits of our community and continues to work and train our next wave of young people coming along.”