Sampson Early College teacher to explore NC turkey industry with Sampson County Farm Bureau

CLINTON, N.C.– Anna Gillespie, a math teacher at Sampson Early College High School, has been awarded a 2024-25 fellowship by the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership at N.C. State University.   

Her fellowship is made possible through support from the Sampson County Farm Bureau, the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, and NC Ag in the Classroom. With 23 years of experience in education, Gillespie is a member of the Rural Teacher Leader Network, serves on the School Improvement Team, and has served as a beginning teacher mentor for educators in Sampson County Schools.

Headshot of Sampson County teacher educator Anna Gillespie.

Gillespie stated that participating in the fellowship will strengthen her as an educator and allow her to create resources that support her school’s goal of aiding first-generation college-bound students. She added, “My passion lies in helping students discover a love for learning. This fellowship will assist me in enhancing my leadership skills to make a difference in the lives of students and teachers.”

During the summer, Gillespie will learn about turkey production in Sampson County by visiting farms and meeting one-on-one with local producers. North Carolina ranks as the second-largest turkey producer in the U.S., producing one billion pounds of turkey in 2022. After her industry immersion, Gillespie will collaborate with experts from the turkey industry and NC Ag in the Classroom to create content for an Ag Mag focused on turkey production. This resource will be distributed digitally and in print, using previous North Carolina Ag Mags as a model.

North Carolina Farm Bureau President Shawn Harding remarks on the importance of this partnership and the North Carolina agriculture industry, “Part of accomplishing our mission involves being sure that children and adults understand where their food comes from and the diversity of agriculture in our state. Agriculture is the perfect example of an application of science, technology, engineering, and math concepts being taught to our state’s youth. North Carolina Farm Bureau is proud to be a key partner in this Kenan Fellowship that highlights our state’s turkey industry. North Carolina turkey production is valued at $1.1 billion. It is exciting that Ms. Gillespie gets to learn about turkeys in the North Carolina county that produces the most in our state–Sampson.”

Fellowships are awarded through a rigorous application process. Gillespie and the other 2024-25 Kenan Fellows will participate in three professional learning institutes designed to enhance their teaching practices and build leadership skills, all while continuing in their school roles.

This yearlong fellowship fosters professional growth and strengthens educators’ connections to their communities. As Kenan Fellows gain knowledge about local industries and workforce needs, they bring valuable insights into the classroom that benefit students by helping them better understand the world around them.

“Completing the Kenan fellowship empowers educators to make a meaningful impact, both as community connectors and as part of a statewide network of teacher leaders,” said Vance Kite, director of the Kenan Fellows Program for Teacher Leadership. “Thanks to support from industry leaders like the Sampson County Farm Bureau and the North Carolina Farm Bureau Federation, we can extend our reach to educators in underserved areas of the state. This enables these teachers to access valuable professional development opportunities that may be unavailable otherwise.”