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Love of Reading Keeps Forsyth Teacher Energized

As Forsyth Academy was preparing to open in 1999, Mary Ellen Kitko was the last teacher hired.

More than 20 years later she still is at the school and was honored as an Excellence in Teaching winner as part of National Heritage Academies’ (NHA) Excellence Awards for the 2021-22 school year.

“I have loved it ever since. I’ve loved being here,” she said. “Just getting an opportunity to start a school, it was very exciting. I loved being a part of that and I think that is also one of the reasons why I still stay here because I feel like it’s a part of me.”

Mary Ellen Kitko receiving Excellence in Teaching award.
Forsyth Academy Second Grade Teacher Mary Ellen Kitko was named an Excellence in Teaching Winner for the 2021-22 school year.

Kitko currently teaches second grade. She started as a first grade teacher for almost 10 years then stepped out of the classroom as an academic specialist before moving to her current position.

She previously taught in the city but yearned for more collaboration, which she found at Forsyth, which has outperformed the local district.

“Here at FA our staff is like a family,” she said. “That’s a huge thing for me. A lot of these teachers have taught my own children because my children went to Forsyth Academy also. I love them for their talent, their love of the students here and their passion for growing the kids.”

Mary Ellen Kitko receiving Excellence in Teaching award.
Mary Ellen Kitko’s husband and children surprised her at the Excellence in Teaching announcement.

That family mentality keeps families connected to the school and has scholars returning as teachers, including some Kitko taught.

“I’ve watched them grow up and now I’m seeing their kids grow up, too,” Kitko said. “It’s where I come every day and I know so many people. I’ve created so many relationships with so many here.”

Seeing students make significant strides throughout the school year never gets old, and Kitko was proud of how her students’ reading progressed in 2021-22. She supplied them with a variety of books to find something that appealed to each student.

It was another prime example of two of Kitko’s passions – reading and teaching.

Mary Ellen Kitko receiving Excellence in Teaching award.

“I had a really good group of kids (in 2021-22),” she said. “That was just one of those years where everything just kind of came together and I saw a really great growth with those kids. They were like sponges and made it a joy to come to work every day last year.”

Principal Christy Harnsberger said Kitko is known for her love of Disney, as well as her work in the community theater and dance programs. She brings high expectations as a mom to the classroom every day and her efforts growing students in Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS) have been valued for years.

“She is a pillar in our school community. She has affected the lives of over 1,000 students,” Harnsberger said. “We are so blessed to have Mrs. Kitko as an integral part of the Forsyth Academy family.”

Keep up the excellent work, Mrs. Kitko!

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About Forsyth Academy
Forsyth Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes over 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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