Meet Crystal Pullen – 2016 NCVPS Teacher of the Year


Raleigh, Feb. 18, 2016 — Crystal Pullen has been named the 2016 NCVPS Teacher of the Year. NCVPS is proud of her excellence in teaching as well as the leadership she has exhibited during her tenure with NCVPS. Please join us in congratulating her.

NCVPS selects one teacher from a group of three finalists to represent the school as its Teacher of the Year. All the finalists exemplified to the highest degree their commitment to student success, knowledge and skills as professional educators, and dedication to the NCVPS online program.

Crystal Pullen graduated from Mary Baldwin College with a bachelor of arts in Business Administration with an emphases in Accounting and Management. She earned her Workforce Development Certification from East Carolina University. Crystal taught Principles of Business, Marketing, Digital Communication Systems, and Computer Applications 1 at North Duplin Junior-Senior High from 2001 to 2007.

In addition to teaching Personal Finance with NCVPS, Crystal has taken on numerous leadership and support roles. She is the Instructional Leader for the nationally recognized Peer Tutoring Center and serves on the leadership team for CTE, Success 101 and Health. She is the course lead for Personal Finance.

Crystal was one of NCVPS’s first Research, Development, and Innovation Specialists. “By nature, I am a problem solver and my passion is helping others solve problems.”

That same problem-solving passion was instrumental in Crystal’s development of the NCVPS Peer Tutoring Center. “As the Instructional Leader for the Peer Tutoring Center, I frequently receive emails and calls about students across NCVPS with special circumstances who require assistance. I can’t express how fulfilling it is to me to be able to match a student with just the right Peer Tutor or Virtual Buddy to provide the necessary level of support.”

Crystal credits her NCVPS colleagues as having the greatest impact on her as an educator. “I have the most supportive team imaginable at NCVPS, specifically within the CTE department and Peer Tutoring Center. These are the most dedicated, student-centered, tech-savvy educators in online education, and they are always available to listen, share experiences, encourage and problem solve with me.

Crystal dispels the myth that teaching online leaves instructors disconnected from one another. “I’ve never felt this disconnect. I know my team is only a text, phone call or instant message away.”

Inspiration is the key for Crystal. She would like teachers to remember why they got into education. “Sometimes we do something for so long it becomes a habit, and we forget the reason we began to do it in the first place. If we lose our inspiration, our excitement for teaching, we aren’t doing our best by our students. Our students are counting on us to inspire them.”

Karen Creech, the NCVPS Instructional Director for CTE courses, readily sees the passion for teaching and learning in everything that Crystal does. “I hear it in her voice when she shares stories about her students. I know that one of her priorities is to make sure every student is successful. She believes all students can learn online and is ready to provide the support to make that possible. I know firsthand of the phone calls, text messages, and virtual classroom meetings she has with students who need a little extra hand-holding in order to feel successful.”

Finding a balance between work and family is important for Crystal. “While working from home has significant benefits, it also presents many challenges especially for someone who likes to give 110% in all areas of their life. NCVPS has always maintained a family first policy, but I admit it took me a few years to get it right. Setting boundaries with my time keeps me refreshed and at my best for both my students and my family.”

Crystal has a message for her students. “This is only the beginning. Take advantage of each opportunity, try new things, and learn everything you can learn. You are building the foundation for the rest of your lives. Make the foundation strong.”

Forming a bond with students is important to Crystal. Karen Creech adds, “She shares her student success stories with an enthusiasm that is contagious. She has told me stories when she was able to laugh with her students, celebrate with her students, and sometimes even cry with them.”

Crystal herself had a complicated high school experience. She began her college career before she graduated high school, and working in dual programs with no online options was problematic. “This is one of the reasons I am one of NCVPS’s strongest advocates. NCVPS offers solutions for students. Whether a student wants to get ahead and graduate early, needs to catch up on credits because of bad choices or medical issues, needs flexible school hours because of a job or extracurricular activities, or lives in a rural area with limited course selection, NCVPS is available to meet their needs. I am tremendously thankful for the opportunities NVCPS provides to the students of North Carolina.”

Crystal will now advance to the National Online Teacher of the Year competition where she will represent NCVPS. This was the eighth year for the NCVPS Teacher of the Year award. NCVPS would like to congratulate all of the teachers who were nominated by their peers for the award. We would like to recognize the other six finalists:

Heather Ertzberger  – ACT Prep

Sara Morey – OCS Biology

Teryn Odom – Spanish 2

LexAnne Speer – OCS English

Kelly Stevens – OCS American History

Amy Vogan – CR English 1

Teryn Odom, Heather Ertzberger, and Crystal were selected as the top three finalists. The NCVPS staff was incredibly impressed with all seven finalists’ presentations, and the staff is proud and grateful to have them as teachers in the NCVPS family.

The NCVPS selection process for the Teacher of the Year program is divided into four phases beginning with the call for nominations. From there, nominees participate in a blind selection process that starts with answering a series of initial questions on instructional philosophy and student-centered instruction. The selection committee then narrows the field to seven finalists who complete a video presentation and a portfolio, which showcases examples of their approach to teaching and their beliefs about instruction.  The top three finalists are then interviewed by the committee before the final selection is made.

NC Virtual Public School is the nation’s second largest state-led virtual school with over 55,000 enrollments from all 115 school districts and many charter schools.  NCVPS offers over 150 different courses as a supplement to the local high school course catalog and includes Advanced Placement, Occupational Course of Study, electives, traditional, honors and credit recovery courses.  All courses are taught by teachers certified in NC and provide strategies for active student engagement through a variety of technology tools.  Teachers are required to make personal contact with students and parents regularly to maximize the student-teacher relationship.  Courses are free to students who enroll through their local North Carolina high school.  NCVPS is available to home school and private school students for a small fee.  By virtue of online course delivery, students now have access to rigorous courses and high-quality teachers regardless of ZIP code.