Mayor picks veteran teacher for inaugural award

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Cynthia Hardy had no lesson plan Monday to help her find the right words after being named the first Time for Teachers Scholarship Fund recipient.

“Oh my God. Oh my God,” Hardy exclaimed as she entered the gymnasium to a celebratory cacophony from her fourth grade students. “This is crazy.”

Tears were rolling from her eyes as Wilson Mayor Carlton Stevens presented the veteran educator with a certificate of appreciation and $100 from his own mayoral salary.

“They always say teachers are the unsung heroes and I truly believe that,” Stevens said. “Your name was submitted because you do things that are above and beyond the call of duty. And so we thought today would be a great day to recognize you and make sure that you understand that our entire community loves what you are doing.”

Vinson-Bynum Elementary School Principal Jenny Hayes said she nominated Hardy for her daily commitment to bettering students’ lives, including free after-school tutoring.

“I just do what I’m supposed to do,” Hardy said. “I’m supposed to work beyond and go the extra mile. That is how we shape and change the world.”

Stevens spent a decade as a teacher and school administrator before becoming the operations manager at his family’s funeral home. While funding for Wilson County Schools is a county function, Stevens campaigned for more support from the city.

The mayor has committed to setting aside $200 a month from his $25,698 annual salary from the city to honor two teachers a month with the Time for Teachers award. School administrators across the district submitted nomination letters to the central office and Stevens drew names from a hat to select the winners.

“I had to do it that way because every teacher that was submitted is phenomenal in their own right,” said Stevens, who will present the second award on Friday. “The relationship with the superintendents office means a lot to because my whole vision is for ‘One Wilson’ and this is one part of that coming to fruition. Normally the mayor’s office wouldn’t work directly with the schools, but we’re showing it can be done.”

The father of six said support won’t be limited to financial contributions. He said the gift of time can be invaluable for students and teachers alike.

“I went to the county commissioners, the school board and the superintendent’s office to ensure what we did would be beneficial. Everyone I spoke with about this thought it was a phenomenal idea,” Stevens said. “Her reaction when we presented the first award let me know we as a community hit the nail on the head. Her reaction was priceless.”

Hardy has been at Vinson-Bynum for seven of her 14 years with the district. Prior to moving to Wilson, she spent two decades teaching students in Anchorage, Alaska. Hardy said she plans to use the extra funds to buy more books for her classroom.

“You’ve been one of our jewels since you came to Wilson County,” school board member Velma Barnes told Hardy.