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OCS Names Teacher of the Year

Marissa Bak was named the OCS Teacher of the Year

Marissa Bak, a 7th grade English Language Arts teacher at Swansboro Middle School, has been named the 2024-2025 OCS Teacher of the Year by Onslow County Schools.  

Bak, a 9-year educator, was named Teacher of the Year in a surprise announcement at the annual OCS Excellence in Education event on May 23. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Wright State University and a master of arts in teaching from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.  

Bak is a highly motivated educator with a passion for serving those less fortunate and for prioritizing mental health in the pursuit of personal growth.  

Teaching her students the value of making a difference is important to Bak, and this year, she helped organize a walk-a-thon where students, staff, and families worked together to raise more than $1,300 for Wells for Sudan. She is well aware, however, that to be able to give to others, one must first take care of themselves. 

Bak said she wishes to be the teacher who starts the conversation that improves the landscape of mental health in education and inspires meaningful change in her classroom, in the district, and in the lives of her students.  

“I recognize that change starts with me...” she said. “In my classroom, I strive to love and support my students. I encourage my students to love one another and be kind to one another. And I foster an environment in which all students feel valued and respected.” 

Bak believes a school environment in which mental health is discussed openly and honestly is attainable and would make all the difference in student performance, teacher retention, and the overall culture of school districts.  

She said, “It starts with one teacher. It starts with one student. It starts with one administrator. It starts with one school. I want to be ‘the one.’” 

Marissa Bak with Principal Page Highsmith

The OCS TOY Committee is led by Dr. Christopher Barnes, OCS Chief Academic Officer, and includes the previous OCS Teacher of the Year and last year’s Principal and Assistant Principal of the Year, as well as a community member and other district staff. The committee reviewed portfolios of all teachers selected by their schools as their TOY. Interviews were conducted with the top 10 semi-finalists. Following the interviews, the committee narrowed the field to five finalists and conducted classroom observations to determine who would be the 2024-2025 TOY.    

Next, Bak will go on to compete at the regional level. Winners at the regional level will compete for North Carolina Teacher of the Year. 

TOY top-five finalists included:  

  • Dana Quigg, Jacksonville Commons Elementary School
  • Katelyn Williams, Meadow View Elementary School
  • Meagan Smith, New Bridge Middle School
  • Marissa Bak, Swansboro Middle School
  • Michael Lechette, White Oak High School