Classroom Connections

Abbey Nobles earns education honors

Abbey Nobles

Poetry, field trips, and simple conversations are among the ways New Hanover High School English teacher ABBEY NOBLES builds rapport with her students.

“I just love getting to know these individual kiddos and their stories and what makes them who they are, and what their goals are, what their dreams are, what they did over the weekend,” says Nobles, who is North Carolina’s Southeast Region Teacher of the Year for 2022.

Nobles devoted time at the start of the recent school semester learning more about her students by talking, team building, and playing structured games. She compares it to figuring out a puzzle revealing what personalities drive her students.

“She really connects and cares deeply about the students, and that shows in her teaching and interaction with them,” New Hanover County Schools media relations manager RUSSELL CLARK says. “Her overall genuine spirit and care of learning really shine through.” 

Nobles is a National Board Certified Teacher in her seventh year of teaching. The district notes she earned degrees in English with a concentration in secondary education and international studies with a Spanish minor from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

She serves as a member of New Hanover County Schools’ Equity Workgroup and co-leads Student Equity Teams to help empower students and foster group advocacy.

In the classroom, poetry is a favorite subject for Nobles. Her methods include teaching the writings of Rudy Francisco and Tupac Shakur.

“We can get into what is diction, what is a simile, what is an allusion, what is a metaphor,” Nobles says. “But they first have this deep understanding of what they’re reading, and they can connect to it.”

Abbey Nobles

Nobles also focuses on behavior interventions and works with English as a Second Language students, and she co-teaches with an Exceptional Children’s teacher and an ESL teacher. Some classes include lessons in English and social skills, with field trips around the community to help students grow both academically and socially, Nobles says. 

“Taking students on field trips is something that is so powerful – to see them in a different environment, whether it is two blocks away on a walking field trip or hours away at a museum, to see them out of their element and stepping up, rising to the occasion and excited to do something different,” Nobles says, later adding, 

“Seeing them curious, asking questions, it’s all a part of learning.” 

Nobles credits LACHAWN SMITH, the district’s chief of diversity, equity, and inclusion, with inspiring her to plan class field trips, and she appreciates the teamwork she has with other educators. 

“I feel so honored to have achieved this,” Nobles says of the regional recognition. “But it is not without the help of everyone else in my school building and district supporting me.” 

Nobles joins eight other educators across the state in being considered for the Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year. 

The Teacher of the Year program started in 1970 to promote the education profession through advocacy and support while recognizing professionals implementing their best practices in the classrooms, says SONJA BROWN, educator advancement lead at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and leader of the state Teacher of the Year program. 

DPI-selected judges will interview the regional winners in February, and the state Teacher of the Year will be announced in April. 

“We look for innovation,” Brown says. “We look for years in the classroom, we look at their service, we look at their speaking abilities.” 

The winner will serve on the state Board of Education for two years and take a one-year sabbatical from teaching to participate in professional learning opportunities and visit schools throughout the state, Brown says. 

Regional teachers of the year will work together with the state winner to plan professional development activities and attend conferences. 

“Regardless of what happens I am part of a really awesome team, and I’m excited to collaborate with other people,” Nobles says, adding she is eager to learn from other teachers about education issues such as school suspension rates and nutrition. 

“I’m really excited to see what everyone else brings to the table, what everyone else’s platforms are, what everyone else is passionate about,” Nobles says. 

Schools everywhere have faced disruptions and challenges due to the pandemic, and Nobles says COVID has highlighted the overwhelming issue of helping some students want to come to school every day. 

She also understands the struggle educators have with limited time to teach many lessons. 

“But there’s always time to get two know the students and to understand their stories and where they come from,” Nobles says. “It can be a daily question when students walk in the room – ‘What did you eat for dinner last night?’ ‘What’s your favorite restaurant?’ 

“You get to know them as individuals and care about them as individuals, instruction will follow.”

To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to

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Categories: Features