NSU Alumna Named Teacher of the Year Twice

NSU Alumna Named Teacher of the Year, Twice

Norfolk State alumna Eboni Harrington, class of 2015, started teaching 5th-grade math at a North Carolina charter school right out of college. And, in her words, “everything that could go wrong did.”

Her mother fell on hard times and Eboni helped however she could, financially and emotionally. Then her brother passed away. It was a tough start for the beginning of her career as an educator.

So, just two years into her career, she relocated back to home and started teaching 7th-grade math at the Lucy Addison Middle School, a Title I school in Roanoke, Virginia. As she focused on family, she became a model for her younger siblings as the oldest of eight and, over the next few years, that desire to be an inspiration spilled over to her students.

Then the pandemic hit, but Eboni knew tough times and how to cope. She reinstituted Student of the Month. She put yard signs in students’ yards to celebrate their accomplishments. She partnered with members of the community to ensure that every student had school supplies. And she put up a Christmas tree in her classroom to brighten spirits. That’s when she realized a blunt fact about teaching at a Title I school: many of her students never experienced a Christmas tree in their home and some rarely received presents.

That wasn’t going to stop Eboni. She created a “wish list” with her students, then began soliciting assistance from her community. With that assistance, she was able to give each student a Christmas gift the day before Winter Break.

“Seeing their smiles was the real accomplishment,” she said.

Her school district and teaching region, however, thought her efforts were worth more than just a room full of smiling students.

Eboni Harrington, NSU ’15, was named 2022 District Teacher of the Year for Roanoke City Public Schools. She is the first female African American in Roanoke to hold the honor. Then, shortly later, she was recognized as the 2022 Virginia Region 6 Teacher of The Year, one of eight teachers in the Commonwealth of Virginia to receive the 2022 regional honors.

According to a Region 6 publication, “Dr. Julie Drewry, Executive Director for Research, Accountability, and Assessment with Roanoke City Public Schools, immediately recognized Ms. Harrington’s leadership potential, even after a single classroom observation.  Having witnessed her rigor of content, engagement of students, and creativity in approach, Dr. Drewry asked Ms. Harrington to mentor the new seventh-grade mathematics teacher who was struggling to meet the needs of her students.”

“Not only did I see growth in the instructional capacity of the new teacher,” Drewry said. “I also saw growth in Ms. Harrington's capacity as a leader.”

Eboni Harrington knows her struggles helped make her the leader she is today, but those struggles started at Norfolk State.

While she chose NSU because she “immediately felt a sense of family, community and student engagement” and NSU “instilled a sense of pride and confidence,” that didn’t pan out for her in her first year. Her freshman year tested her academically, mentally, and socially. But a supportive phone call from a sibling gave her a new resolve. Going into her sophomore year, she decided “not to survive but to thrive on campus.” She submerged herself into college culture by joining the Sister Circle for Women Empowerment, the Boys and Girls Club, the Math Club, and the Lions Club. And she believes it was that focus and diligence that formed her into the strong public servant she is today.

“If it wasn't for Norfolk State, I wouldn't have made it as far as I did,” she said. “I am truly grateful for everything Norfolk State offered me and continues to do as I live out my career.”

And her relationship with NSU continues.

“I still communicate with my advisor and professors about many life lessons and more,” she said. “I would love to talk to current students about not giving up and seeing the benefits of all that Norfolk State has to offer.”

But her actions speak the loudest.

You can see a recap of Eboni’s work at https://www.becauseofthemwecan.com/blogs/botwc-firsts/eboni-harrington-makes-history-as-first-black-woman-to-be-named-teacher-of-the-year-in-roanoke-city, which includes a local TV news report and her “W.A.P. -- Work and  Progress” video she made at the beginning of the pandemic to define virtual teaching for her students and keep them engaged with their coursework.


NSU Alumna Named Teacher of the Year Twice