DOBSON — Molly Anderson was unaware she was being lured into an ambush when the Rockford Elementary School principal sat down to deal with a budget problem.
The plot was orchestrated by staff at the Surry County Schools central office, and the result of the covert mission was surprising Anderson with the news she had been named the district’s principal of the year.
As Anderson was tied up in the budget meeting on Monday morning, staff at Rockford Elementary were quietly herding the school’s students to the gymnasium. There, they remained quiet, as superintendent Dr. Travis Reeves, school board chair Dr. Terri Mosley, school board member Earlie Coe and others sneaked in the back door.
When the stage was set, Anderson was summoned to the gym, where she was met by her family, students yelling “surprise” and staff from the central office and the school.
“I’ve known Ms. Anderson since she was about your size,” said Mosley, who is a retired teacher and school administrator, as she addressed the students. “I’m proud of the leader she has become in the community and the school.”
Reeves, who noted Anderson will move on to a regional principal of the year competition, said he has enjoyed watching Anderson grow and become a leader not only at Rockford, but in the entire district, a statement with which the previous year’s principal of the year agreed.
“She is an outstanding principal,” said Surry Early College principal Kevin Via. “Even as a high school principal, I learn a lot from her.”
Renee Bowman held a key role in the scheme to surprise Anderson, and she said Anderson has played a key role in her development in Bowman’s first year as assistant principal at the school.
“I learn something from her every day,” remarked Bowman.
Anderson said she had, indeed, been surprised, and she called the recognition a “huge, huge honor.”
“We have accomplished a lot,” said Anderson of her time spent at the school since taking its reins in 2013.
“I haven’t done it by myself,” added Anderson as she thanked staff at the school and “the best students in the world.”
She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Appalachian State University and began teaching for the county schools in 2002.
Teacher of the year
As things were wrapping up at Rockford, a similar plot had been launched at Flat Rock Elementary School, where fourth grade teacher Phillip Riekehof would soon learn he had been named the district’s teacher of the year.
There, students and staff were lured to the gymnasium under the guise of a fitness and nutrition program.
Riekehof has spent his entire teaching career at Flat Rock Elementary School. He even completed his student teaching there before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Lees-McRae College.
According to Reeves, Riekehof’s teaching philosophy involves experience-based learning. He often tells his students, “Buckle up! We are going on a journey!”
“Buckle up! You are going on a journey!” Reeves told Riekehof as he explained Riekehof would next compete in a statewide teacher of the year competition.
Both Riekehof and Anderson were picked from a pool of their colleagues by a committee consisting of educators, school board members, retired educators and leaders in the community.
“We truly want to find the best,” Reeves said of the process of picking the teacher of the year. “We appreciate what you do.”
Each was given a small gift and will receive a gift certificate from Chick-Fil-A, as Mount Airy Chick-Fil-A owner Chad Tidd sat on the committee.
Like Anderson, Riekehof was also surprised by family members, including wife Michelle and new son Carter.
He noted they are a large part of his success.
“My family has put me in this position,” explained Riekehof. “They always support doing what is best for my students.”
Riekehof also thanked the students and his fellow staff members at Flat Rock.
“In the fourth grade, we build on what everybody else has done,” added Riekehof.
“It’s wonderful to watch a young teacher grow and develop,” Mosley told Riekehof. “We are very proud of you.”