GREENSBORO — A Northwest High School band teacher’s kindness to a student going through a difficult time resulted in a big win this week.

Brian McMath won $10,000 from the N.C. Education Lottery’s “North Carolina School Heroes” program, and also earned another $10,000 for his school and $1,000 for the person who nominated him.

The program recognized him Friday with an award ceremony at the school.

Parent Anna-Liv Deardorff nominated McMath for the award, calling him “the definition of a hero to our family.”

She wrote that when her son was injured in an accident, it felt like more than he could handle to realize that he might not ever be able to play his trumpet the same way again. Yet, she wrote, McMath taught him to use music as therapy to manage his pain while healing and inspired him to continue to play jazz gigs.

“Mr. McMath was the one teacher who made it his mission to help our son fight through the darkness and come out on the other side a stronger kid and even better musician,” she wrote.

McMath said in a news release he didn’t feel like he was a hero.

“I just feel like I did what any teacher would do,” he said. “That’s what we do. We support our kids. It’s a band family. Family takes care of family.”

His principal Ralph Kitley said in a phone interview that the school band has grown under McMath’s leadership.

“He pushes and challenges his students, whether it be musically or personally,” he said. “He has very high expectations for his students, but the thing that makes him who he is is his ability to build very positive relationships with all of his students.”

McMath was one of 10 school employees across the state recognized. Winners were selected from among 6,750 nominations. Judges considered the 200 nominations that received the most votes from the public online, then picked the winners from that pool.

Among the other winners announced was Dixie Black, a teacher assistant and substitute bus driver at Pilot Elementary School in Thomasville.

Here’s the rest of the list:

  • Michael Allen, principal at Joe Toler-Oak Hill Elementary School in Oxford.
  • Elise Barrett, a teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Leland.
  • Vic Bridges, a school custodian at Swain County Middle School in Bryson City.
  • Peggy Curnette, a school cafeteria manager at Eastfield Global Magnet School in Marion.
  • Ronald Nixon, a high school basketball coach at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City.
  • Jerome Sutton, a school crossing guard at Sun Valley Middle School in Indian Trail.
  • Jeff Walker, a chemistry teacher at Pine Lake Preparatory School in Mooresville.
  • Shonny Williams, a school social worker at the Governor Morehead School For The Blind in Raleigh.
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Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.

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