Women to Watch: Education Finalists

Meet the Women to Watch award finalists in the Education category

Brenda Esch

Head of School | Friends School of Wilmington

When Brenda Esch became the head of the Friends School of Wilmington in 2012, she took the post on the heels of a long-term administration and with the willingness to make changes, officials of the independent Quaker school say.

This year, Esch, a board member on the Friends Council on Education, emphasized place-based education in which students are immersed in southeastern North Carolina issues from ecology to history to local literature.

Under her leadership, the school is connecting with outside groups such as the North Carolina Coastal Federation and REACH (Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help) to collaborate on those place-based lessons.


Robin Hamilton

Principal | Parsley Elementary School

Now the principal of Parsley Elementary School, Robin Hamilton has worked in a variety of roles in three North Carolina schools, serving as a leader in public education for more than twenty-three years.

New Hanover County Schools named her Principal of the Year for the 2014-15 school year. After Hamilton became principal at Parsley in 2008, the school ranked high statewide for student attendance.

She currently is working with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to provide professional development to other school districts in the region. This school year, she also is serving as president of the New Hanover County Schools Principals’ and Assistant Principal’s Association.


Sabrina Hill-Black

Instructional Coach | D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy

Sabrina Hill-Black has worked for New Hanover County Schools for more than eighteen years and now works with students at D.C. Virgo Preparatory Academy.

Hill-Black is known for her ability to connect with students and creativity in her role. She has served as a teacher in various schools and was named the 2012-13 Teacher of the Year and Middle School Teacher of the Year for the New Hanover County school district when she was the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program coordinator at Williston Middle School.


Lori Messinger

Director of the School of Social Work UNCW College of Health and Human Services

Lori Messinger started her fourth year as head of UNCW’s School of Social Work this fall. Under her leadership, the school increased the number of majors serving transfer students and the number of military-affiliated students in Jacksonville at a satellite campus. Messinger also has built collaborative relationships with area health providers such as New Hanover Regional Medical Center, New Hanover County health department, and Med North.

Before moving to Wilmington to take the UNCW position when the College of Health and Human Services opened in 2011, Messinger was at the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare. While there, she was named a KU Women of Distinction.


Melissa Quinlan

Director of Exceptional Children Program Brunswick County Schools

Melissa Quinlan heads up Brunswick County Schools’ program for students with disabilities so they can develop mentally, physically, emotionally, and vocationally.

She has implemented new programs and improved on existing ones, even as the number of children in the program has increased.

Quinlan has worked in the field for twenty years and has been a special education teacher, behavior intervention specialist, and regional coordinator.

She recently implemented a Parent Resource Library, viewable through the school district’s YouTube channel, on topics such as behavior management techniques and sensory needs at home.

For more about the awards and other category finalists, click here.