Charlotte Mecklenburg school (CMS) district is now home to 2014 NC Teacher of the Year.
Garinger High School 9th Grade History Teacher James Ford took home the title Thursday at the Burroughs Welcome Fund luncheon in Cary, NC. A CMS teacher has not won this award since 1970.
Ford has been a teacher in CMS for four years and students say he is making a difference in their lives.
"Soon as I walk into Mr. Ford's class," Student Mahogany Taylor said. "It's just like a ray of knowledge that shines on my brain. It wakes me up with a bunch of knowledge I need for my future."
Ford says winning the title came as a complete surprise.
"Disbelief," NC Teacher of the Year James Ford said. "I was quite sure they were right and when they were describing the profile of the person - I said yea that's me."
Ford was chosen Teacher of the Year because judges thought he does a good job engaging students. Ford says he was born to do what he does.
"It became a mission and a ministry," Ford said. "To say I get to take this message back to the kids - I have to be the person that I wished I had in my ear when I was younger, advocating - letting them know truly how important and how powerful education is when it comes to transforming lives."
Ford's students say their grades have improved because of their teacher's method.
"He incorporates rap music," Taylor said. "Modern day things that us teenagers use - he uses that to get us encouraged."
"He doesn't sit there and make everything boring," Student Juandrique Chambers said. "He makes it come to life. He makes us laugh. He makes jokes and at the same time he makes sure you are learning."
The teacher of the year will now travel the state to be an ambassador and represent the 95,000 teachers in North Carolina.
"I'm very mission oriented," Ford said. "So what this means to me is - I have the platform - the opportunity to be a voice in the wilderness on behalf of students and educators."
Ford says he will take that role very seriously. He will speak out against teachers not having a significant raise in about five years and he will give advice for teachers entering the profession.
"If you don't love it," Ford said. "Then you may want to reconsider this vocation. This is not for the faint of heart. This is a calling. It is a ministry and a service to humanity."
Ford will have use of a leased car for the next year. He will also have about $11,000 worth of technology for his class and he will receive a vase and a cash award that amounts to $7500 and he will also get a trip to the International Space Camp and to the National Teacher of the Year conference.