Third Grade Teacher Receives 2022 Flame For Learning Award

Jennifer Beninate, a third grade teacher at Four Oaks Elementary, was named Johnston County’s Teacher of the Year at the annual Flame for Learning Award ceremony.

Four Oaks Elementary third grade teacher Jennifer Beninate was named the 2022 Johnston County Teacher of the Year at the annual Flame for Learning Award banquet on April 26.

Because of the importance of teachers in developing and educating children, the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce adopted the Flame For Learning Award. Their goal is to support and elevate the teaching profession in the public schools. This award recognizes outstanding creativity and innovation in the classroom and nominees are selected strictly on merit, without regard to school or residence.

Through a blind judging process, twenty semifinalists were selected to move on to the interview phase and submitted a Best Practice from the classroom. The twenty semifinalists represented 18 schools from all across Johnston County.

(Left to right) Johnston County’s Teacher of the Year Jennifer Beninate, Johnston County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric. Bracy, and finalists for the Flame for Learning Award Amanda Jackson and Amanda Astoske. Not photographed is finalist for the Flame for Learning Award Melissa Pearce.

Three innovative teachers were chosen as finalists for the award: Amanda Astoske of Smithfield-Selma High, Amanda Jackson of South Smithfield Elementary, and Melissa Pearce of Cleveland High.

Beninate will move forward to represent Johnston County in the regional competition, which is a part of the competition for North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year. She received $1,000 for being named the Flame for Learning Award recipient.

The finalists for the award, Astoske, Jackson, and Pearce received $500 dollars, and the semifinalists for the award received $100 individually. All of the cash awards were made possible thanks to the Flame for Learning Awards sponsors.

The district’s top educators at the annual Flame for Learning Award Ceremony. From left: Jennifer Beninate, Patience Spivey, Meredith Rakowski, LiAnn Cheong, Kristine Gear, Dr. Eric Bracy, Rachel Hardin, Will Marshall, and Beverly Harper. On the front row (from left) are Abigail Valdes, Carlos Jimenez, Gail Lawhorn, Robin Tingle, Shannon Gibson, Karen Newhart, Brandy Williams, Amanda Jackson, Maria Eby, Amanda Astoske, and Lee Hudson. Not photographed: Melissa Pearce.

The 20 semifinalists for the Flame for Learning award were:

Abigail Valdes -Cooper Elementary
Amanda Astoske – Smithfield-Selma High
Amanda Jackson – South Smithfield Elementary
Beverly Harper – Smithfield Middle
Brandy Williams – Selma Elementary
Carlos Jimenez – Selma Middle
Gail R. Lawhorn – River Dell Elementary
Jennifer Beninate – Four Oaks Elementary
Karen Newhart – Riverwood Elementary
Kristine Gear – Innovation Academy
Lee Hudson – West Johnston High
LiAnn Cheong – Riverwood Elementary
Maria Eby – Dixon Road Elementary
Melissa Pearce – Cleveland High
Meredith Rakowski – Clayton High
Patience Spivey – Smithfield Middle
Rachel Hardin – West View Elementary
Robin Tingle – Thanksgiving Elementary
Shannon Gibson – Pine Level Elementary
Will Marshall – West Johnston High

The banquet was held at The Farm @ 42 in Selma, and was hosted and catered by Johnston County Public Schools.