Care Before Curriculum: Advice from Xavier Adams, 2022 North Carolina Beginning Teacher of the Year

 Photo:  Terri Clark Photography

As an instructional coach, I have never worked with someone that has a harder time accepting a compliment than Xavier Adams.  From my first visit to his class (via zoom during August 2020), he pushed me to give him more constructive feedback – it was clear he did not want to spend our coaching sessions talking about what he was doing well.  And there was a lot that he was doing well. 

Xavier successfully built relationships with students he was never able to meet in person – and it was not an accident or luck that these connections were made.  His commitment to putting student needs first and his determination to make his classroom a safe space for all people and any discussion, laid the foundation for a successful first year.  If you ask anyone that has worked with him or visited his classroom, it was not a surprise to see him  nominated for, and eventually win, the title of the NCCAT 2022 Prudential NC Beginning teacher of the year.  I recently had a conversation with him about what thoughts and advice he would like to share with beginning teachers across the state.

Q: What is the first thing you want a new teacher reading this blog post to know?


First, I want to express gratitude to all of the Beginning Teachers..  Many people have opinions at this time about teachers and our classrooms – you are aware of this yet you are still choosing to participate in this work. So thank you for choosing to serve North Carolina’s students.

Q: What are two pieces of Advice you have for new teachers?


Focus on caring for your students before the curriculum. Building relationships is central to the work that we do as teachers because we have the opportunity because we have the opportunity to be the person they rely on for advice, a source of hope and positivity. To do so, you have to be willing to provide students with a platform to bring their full self to your classroom. And, you have to be willing to open up about yourself and allow students to know you.

Second, it is important that you have open and honest conversations about what is happening in the world around the students, whether it be related to race, gender, sexual orientation or any topic pertaining to someone’s identity.  Our students are the future leaders of our society, so we must create opportunities for them to engage in these important and difficult conversations in a charitable way to learn about the diverse perspectives of their classmates. Through these conversations, empower our students with important critical thinking skills and the ability to make our society a better place.  

Q: What have you learned through the process of becoming the 2022 North Carolina BTOY?


There are so many opportunities for teachers to have an impact on education beyond their classroom, and Beginning Teachers are beginning to have a seat at that table.  Some of the opportunities and resources that I have learned about throughout the process include BestNC, Public School Forum, EdNC, and The Drive Summit Task Force. Each of these organizations offer teachers to lean into the role of advocating for students and education.   I was able to learn about a lot of these opportunities through the process of becoming the NC BTOY. At this time, not all, not all of our school districts  participate in the process for nominating and selecting a Beginning Teacher of the Year – I’d encourage you to advocate that your county participate in the in the process of naming a school and district level BTOY. Please reach out to me if you would like any assistance with doing so. We need more voices of beginning teachers to join the discussion.

Xavier Adams is the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) 2022 Prudential NC Beginning Teacher of the Year. Known to his students as Mr. Xavier, Xavier teaches at Orange High School in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where he teaches World History, African American Studies, and LatinX Studies. Xavier holds two master’s degrees from Duke University: a Master’s in Theological Studies and a Master of Arts in Teaching. In his free time, Xavier can be found rooting for the University of Kansas Jayhawks.  You can contact Xavier via email at [email protected]

Read more from Xavier here

Watch an interview with Xavier here

Contributors: Sarah Petty, UNC-Chapel Hill and Xavier Adams, NCCAT 2022 Prudential NC Beginning Teacher of the Year

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