Aaroa Thomas-Hairston smiles and holds a bouquet of flowers

Martinsville City Public Schools is proud to announce that Aaroa Thomas-Hairston, an 11th grade English teacher at Martinsville High School, has been selected as the district’s Teacher of the Year.

“I am deeply grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from my loved ones throughout my teaching career,” Thomas-Hairston said. “My family and friends have uplifted me along the way and for that I am thankful. I also appreciate the guidance and motivation provided by our administrative team and district leaders. By challenging me to improve and grow, they have made me a better educator. And to my students—thank you for being open to learning, for growing alongside me, and for putting up with my antics. I am honored to take this educational journey with you.”

An impartial, anonymous review panel chose Mrs. Thomas-Hairston for the top honor from a pool of talented teachers across the district’s schools. She was selected at the high school level by a vote of her colleagues before moving forward to represent Martinsville High School. The other 2023 Teachers of the Year for Martinsville City Public Schools are:

  • Domica Ortiz, VPI-3 teacher at Clearview Early Learning Center
  • Jamie Earnest, 2nd grade teacher at Patrick Henry Elementary
  • Melissa Alverson, K-5 reading specialist at Albert Harris Elementary
  • Robert Ashby, 8th grade physical science teacher at Martinsville Middle School

“I am elated about our Teacher of the Year this year,” said superintendent Dr. Zebedee Talley. “Our staff at Martinsville City Schools set an excellent example for our students and community. We are proud to have Ms. Thomas-Hairston represent Martinsville City Public Schools at the next level of educational competition. Of course, we feel that all of our staff members are winners!”

In recognition of her diligence to education, Barry Nelson, of Autos by Nelson, presented Thomas-Hairston with a new car for her to drive as part of the year. 

In her seven years with Martinsville City Public Schools, Mrs. Thomas-Hairston has made a tremendous impact on her students and peers. She currently teaches 11th grade English, but also serves as a reading assistant at Patrick Henry Elementary two days a week. She previously taught English 9, reading intervention courses, and was an AVID 9 teacher. 

Her dedication and excellence in the classroom are evidenced by heartfelt recommendations from colleagues and students alike. They describe a teacher who builds strong bonds in the classroom, collaborates with her colleagues, and inspires confidence in her students. 

“Teaching is not just a profession for Ms. Thomas-Hairston,” said Keona Walton, last year’s Teacher of the Year from Martinsville High School. “It is a calling. One that she takes seriously.” Thomas-Hairston served as a mentor to Walton when she first joined the staff at MHS, Walton said, and has been an influential figure in both Walton’s personal and professional growth. “My voice mattered to her. She was willing to teach me,” Walton said. 

Monica Watkins, a senior at MHS, recalled looking forward to class discussions in Thomas-Hairston’s English class. Beyond her abilities as a teacher, Watkins said Mrs. Thomas-Hairston has been like a second mother to her, someone who “is more than my 11th grade English teacher … She is someone who supports me and shows me love.” 

Thomas-Hairston holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Radford University and a Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary Education from Liberty University. Most recently, she earned a Master of Education: Reading Specialist certification, also from Liberty University. 

Martinsville City Public Schools congratulates Ms. Thomas-Hairston on being named the district’s Teacher of the Year. Her passion for teaching and nurturing students is a tremendous asset for the district and the Martinsville community.