Angie Scioli, a teacher at Leesville Road High School, is featured in the upcoming film “Teacher of the Year”as a result of her protests against state laws which freeze teachers’ pay. The film, which seeks to demonstrate the complexities and intricacies of teaching, concentrates on Scioli’s teaching experience and her demonstration of the universal truths of teaching.
Excited and passionate about learning, she is the embodiment of most people’s idea of an ideal teacher. However, for Scioli, teaching is more than her occupation or career. According to Scioli, she is a “veteran” and “teaching is like a lifestyle— it’s almost counter cultural at this point.”
She has even gone as far to found a nonprofit dedicated to advancing teaching and public education within North Carolina, but Scioli was not always interested in teaching. As a high school student, she originally envisioned herself going to law school. Eventually, it hit her: The necessities of law did not align with the values she had for herself. After deciding against law, teaching came into the picture.
“Suddenly I realized something, thanks to the Teaching Fellows scholarship,” Scioli said. “Here is an occupation that allows me to be intellectually curious — it draws upon my skills, I get to be creative, and it is in alignment with my values. And then I got sucked in.”
Scioli accredits her 22 years of teaching to the NC Teaching Fellows Program. This scholarship allowed numerous people like Scioli to attend college before moving on to become public school teachers in North Carolina.
For Scioli, teaching isn’t just about checking off boxes or getting a paycheck. It is about creating an educated populace, and doing that requires quality teachers.
“Learning is the goal of life. … I believe in democracy,” Scioli said. “And I believe an educated citizenry is necessary to make democracy successful, and therefore we should all participate in making sure that the 51 percent are educated and informed.”
Her desire to see democracy work and have decisions made by educated and informed people not only drives her teaching but her activities outside the classroom as well.
Scioli said she worries decisions about education are being made by people who do not understand how education works.
“Our state legislatures are part-time legislatures made up of self-employed professionals. … As a result, their referencing institutions for schools is a business,” Scioli said. “They always want to put schools into a business model — but I would suggest that the referencing institution for schools should be family.”
It isn’t just legislators either. Scioli worries about how the public views teachers and teaching.
“Schools have been branded as failing, and we have allowed that branding,” Scioli said.
In line with other changes made to education, the NC Teaching Fellows Program that helped to educate great teachers no longer exists. The loss of this program and cuts to public education and teachers’ salaries are all things Scioli fights against.
Scioli expressed fear that these cuts would create a two-tiered system: one where we would get some passionate teachers, but also where we would start getting “exactly what we paid for.”
Though Scioli can identify problems, she described herself as a wide-eyed optimist, hopeful for the future of teaching. As such, one of her aims in founding Red 4 Ed is to help “re-rebrand schools” and establish a more nuanced understanding of education. According to Scioli, these things, along with higher teacher pay and more social value for teachers, can turn things around for public education in North Carolina.
This same optimism and enthusiasm is exactly what drew filmmakers Rob Phillips and Jason Korreck to interviewing Scioli, even though there are many teachers concerned with public education in NC.
“Angie is an exceptional teacher who describes herself as a ‘true believer’ and her commitment to making the world a better place is inspiring. … When the film comes out, the complexity of her work will be on full view,” Phillips said.
Through all the changes public education has seen since Scioli started teaching 22 years ago, she said that she wouldn’t change her career choice. She joked about teaching and the way it became integral to her life.
“I have a problem: a teaching problem. And I don’t see an end to it,” Scioli said.