SYLVA, NC – Jackson County Early College English Teacher Inga Sutton was selected as the 2022-23 Jackson County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. The announcement was made at the district’s annual awards celebration held May 5 at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching in Cullowhee.
“I was definitely shocked. There were so many great candidates, and they all deserved the recognition,” Sutton said.
Raised in a small community near Lake Okeechobee in Florida, Sutton knew by age seven that she wanted to be an educator.
“I loved school and was fascinated by my teachers,” she said.
Sutton credits a fourth-grade teacher for inspiring her love of reading and a ninth-grade teacher for developing her appreciation for grammar.
“It was because of their influence that I never veered from the path of becoming an English teacher,” she said.
In 1988 while visiting Dillsboro with her parents and two brothers, Sutton discovered Western Carolina University. After finishing high school, she moved to the mountains and attended WCU where she earned a Bachelor of Science in English Education degree.
She taught English at Smoky Mountain High School for 12 years and has been at Jackson County Early College for the past nine years.
“I still enjoy it. I love going to work knowing I will spend my day teaching English,” she said.
JCEC Principal Melanie Jacobs said Sutton’s influence extends beyond her students’ high school years.
“It’s not unusual for students to come back years after graduation just to thank her for inspiring them to do great things,” Jacobs said.
“Students know they can count on her, and they know she believes in them,” Southwestern Community College Liaison Pamela Judson said.
Sutton will participate in a competitive process from which nine regional winners will be chosen. The state winner will be selected from the regional winners, and the 2023 NC Teacher of the Year award will be presented at a ceremony next spring.