A member of the education community of Rockingham, who was honored with a state title more than 30 years ago, is set to be honored once more.
Ruth Watkins of Rockingham was named North Carolina Teacher of the Year in 1978. She will be honored among 14 other ‘stars’ at her alma mater, North Carolina Central University in Durham, on Saturday.
Watkins’ teaching career began in Richmond County.
“She started at Leak Street,” said her husband and former principal of Leak Street School, J.C. Watkins. “She was an excellent teacher. I know, I hired her.”
However, by the time she was nominated Teacher of the Year, she was teaching at Richmond Senior High School, said J.C. Watkins.
Watkins explained that each school nominates a teacher, and a teacher must be selected from among those in the school district that have been chosen. Ruth Watkins nearly didn’t make it, but one vote broke the tie in her favor. She was also selected to represent the district.
“She competed with 12 other districts in the state,” said J.C. Watkins. “A state committee interviewed her.”
Ruth Watkins has since retired from the school district. She and her husband live in Rockingham.
In October, Ruth Watkins got a letter from North Carolina Central University, inviting her to be honored at the Cecelia Steppe-Jones Endowed Scholarship Benefit and Auction.
“During the 1978-79 school year, you were named N.C. State Teacher of the Year,” said the letter from Edith Thorpe, development officer. “What a major accomplishment and a true testament to your commitment to education, the power profession! Because of your achievement, your alma mater, North Carolina Central University, would like to honor you along with other alumni who have been named national, state, regional or district teacher of the year. Congratulations!”
According to J.C. Watkins, Ruth won’t be able to attend the event on Saturday at 7 p.m., but someone has agreed to stand in for her.
“We are extremely sorry to hear you are under the weather and wish you a speedy recovery,” said the letter from Thorpe. “Today, I spoke with Mrs. Ellain McGhee-Brooks who has agreed to attend the Cecelia Steppe-Jones Endowed Scholarship Benefit and Auction in your stead.”
The H.M. Michaux Jr. School of Education will present Honoring Fifteen of our Brightest Stars on the NCCU campus in the School of Education auditorium. Proceeds from the evening will benefit the scholarship fund.
From 1945 until 1976, Ruth Watkins taught French and Social Studies in Moore and Richmond County Schools. She served as President of Southeast Region Association of Classroom Teachers from 1976-77. She served as president of the North Carolina Association of Educators and was also assistant principal of Hamlet Junior High School. In 1978, Ruth Watkins served as a North Carolina Association of Educators Delegate to the world conference on the teaching profession in Jakarta, Indonesia. Ruth Watkins’ other professional experience and affiliations stretch for pages.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.