Polk County Schools’ alumnus is Polk Teacher of the Year

Published 11:51 am Thursday, November 16, 2017

COLUMBUS – She grew up in Polk County schools and now she brings the passion and curiosity she learned back to Polk County Middle School. During its Nov. 7 meeting, the Polk County School Board announced Stephanie Luedi as the district’s 2018 Teacher of the Year.  

After attending Tryon Elementary and Tryon Middle School, Luedi graduated from Polk County High School in 2003. She earned an associate degree from Isothermal Community College and went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and a minor in biology at Montreat College. After college she returned home and has been teaching for Polk County Middle School for six years. 

According to an article on polkstudents.com, Luedi developed her love of teaching at Montreat College. She said the students at Montreat would teach each other about the natural world around them. 

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Luedi’s classroom at Polk County Middle School reflects this love of sharing knowledge of nature and the outdoors. Her classroom is filled with photos of and quotes from Albert Einstein, nature pictures, live plants and an aquarium trout farm. She uses these items to create a hands-on learning environment for her students rather than just giving them information.  

“I really encourage my students to try to think about information on their own instead of it just coming from me,” she said. “You can’t appreciate what you see unless you understand it.”  

Polk County School Board member Rhonda Corley, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Ronette Dill, and 2017 District Teacher of the Year, Jon Ezell, interviewed each of the district’s schools’ selection for teacher of the year and reviewed their portfolios to choose the district winner. Luedi is now in the running to represent the region as one of North Carolina’s nine regional teachers of the year. The state teachers of the year are selected by regional education facilitators representing the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Educator Effectiveness Division. 

Luedi credits her teaching skills to what she learned growing up in Polk County schools and the freedom and autonomy that Polk County allows its teachers. Luedi uses this freedom to teach topics that are significant to the younger generation such as the energy crisis, overuse of natural resources, habitat loss, biological diversity and loss of water quality.  

“I challenge them to understand the problems and to start thinking about solutions,” she said. 

In addition to teaching science, Luedi also coaches the school’s Science Olympiad team, serves as an assistant coach for the boys and girls soccer teams and helps out with events and other school activities. 

The other Polk County schools’ teachers of the year are Ashley Gilbert of Polk County High School, Kelleigh Powell of Polk Central Elementary, Stephanie Uhrich of Saluda Elementary, Gina Kelly-Price of Sunny View Elementary and Karen Prady from Tryon Elementary.