Teacher of the year believes in “magic”

By Tim Reaves

Aubrey Cripps believes in the “magic” of learning. Cripps, a fifth-grade English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at North Windy Ridge Intermediate School, makes her classroom an imaginative space of Harry Potter themes. She assigns each student to one of the four Hogwarts houses from the books, based on their personalities and learning styles. Their active seating desks have quill pens with feather colors that match the house banners hanging from the wall. “Potions” and books line the shelves, and homemade props surround the students. It feels like a Hogwarts classroom.

“My classroom is a universe between four walls,” Ms. Cripps said. “It’s an outlet for me to express my love of reading. And I tell my students that Harry Potter might not be their ‘right book,’ but there’s a book somewhere in this room that will do that.”

She has good reason to lean into J.K. Rowling’s fictional world: the books awakened her own love of reading when she was a child. For the first time, she saw the purpose of reading, beyond sounding out the words – she found the journey.

“So for me, those books really were magic,” she said. “I realized that reading is a portal you can walk around in. You can meet new people and travel around without going anywhere. I want my students to see that.”

Cripps is North Windy Ridge’s Teacher of the Year, and last month she became Teacher of the Year for the whole North Buncombe District. Principal Brent Wise described her as “innovative, fun, and engaging.”
“She wakes up something in her students,” he said. “They feel an expectation to succeed, and she helps them rise to it.”

Ms. Cripps never considered being a teacher when she was growing up. A quiet introvert, she never expected to lead a classroom. She still sometimes wonders how she got here.

“But the question is always answered when I’m standing in front of my students,” she said. “I have to pull out my best self for them. It feels like a calling, like I was chosen: ‘that one will be a teacher.’”

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