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Q+A with 3 Asheville educators making an impact in our community

See what inspires three Asheville educators to inspire others — and learn how UNC Asheville’s Education program prepared them for this challenging (and rewarding) career path.

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Jesus Citalan-Angeles is a 7th Grade Math Teacher at Asheville Middle School — and a recent graduate of UNC Asheville’s Education program.

Photo provided by UNC Asheville

Table of Contents

Think of the people who have most impacted your life: Odds are a teacher made your list. Many of us have that teacher who challenged or inspired us forward.

Now, meet three Asheville educators who are making a difference in our local kids’ lives every day.

See what inspires them to inspire others — and how UNC Asheville’s Education program prepared them for their impactful careers.

Derek Edwards | Principal of Asheville High School

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Principal Edwards says he particularly loves seeing high schoolers transform from nervous, overwhelmed freshmen to confident, focused seniors.

Photo provided by Derek Edwards

How did UNC Asheville prepare you to make an impact in the community?

UNCA prepared me to solve complex problems, to look at issues through multiple perspectives, and to find solutions that would be impossible with a narrower educational experience.

I had incredible professors, staff, and administrators who mentored and helped me grow in ways I didn’t expect. I was challenged in and out of the classroom to not only better myself, but the community around me.

What advice do you have for students or adults considering an education career path?

Be prepared for the most challenging career that you will ever love. Education is not for the faint of heart, it isn’t easy, but the rewards are priceless. The excitement of a kindergartner learning to read, the first tooth lost at school, the first time a child nails that presentation, a student athlete winning a game-winning shot, students finally finding the right answer, and, ultimately, that huge hug on the graduation stage from a kid you’ve known since kindergarten.

These experiences are worth more than money. They fill your soul, they drive you to do more and give more. Our students need and deserve great teachers, so challenge yourself to become the greatness they need.

What do you think makes UNC Asheville unique?

The immense variety of peers I was surrounded by. Among my immediate college friends are teachers, principals, authors, politicians, directors of major nonprofit organizations, historians, artists, government agents + on and on. UNCA challenged and changed us so that we would change the world.

Sarah Cain | Executive Director of Exceptional Children and Federal Programs, Asheville City Schools

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Sarah Cain says those who are considering education should think about their own experience and help it define why and how they will make a positive impact in childrens’ lives.

Photo provided by Sarah Cain

Why do you love what you do?

As an educator I am always part of a team and love providing services, answers, and solutions which have the potential to shift student outcomes. Being part of a strength-based and solution-focused process motivates me every day.

How did UNC Asheville prepare you to make an impact in the community?

The size of UNCA was a huge plus for me. The faculty instilled the value of recognizing what every individual brings to the table and how to build lasting relationships with those we serve. Faculty cared about their students - something I have tried to model as a teacher and administrator.

What do you think makes UNC Asheville unique?

Faculty strives to ensure UNCA graduates leave with a strong sense of community and understand how they can serve as elements of change. As a UNCA student, the focus was never about just attending a lecture or activity - but rather what I walked away with. I’m grateful they recognized my potential and pushed me beyond my normal limits. I truly believe they were a turning point in my life. For me, the uniqueness of UNCA will always be grounded in their exceptional faculty.

Jesus Citalan-Angeles | 7th Grade Math Teacher, Asheville Middle School

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Jesus Citalan-Angeles says UNC Asheville prepared him to make an impact by ensuring he was always near a classroom, observing and learning in the community he would later serve.

Photo provided by UNC Asheville

Why do you love what you do?

What encapsulates the answer the most: the rewards — whether it be the day-to-day wins or the time to build relationships with students. Every student gets to be taught in the way that suits them best, and I get to be their person of support.

What advice do you have for students or adults who are considering an education career path?

Be prepared to learn the reality of teaching, whether it be the true joys or the truly challenging parts. It is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had, but it requires dedication not only for your students but to yourself.

What do you think makes UNC Asheville unique?

The city of Asheville itself, where its population consists of a largely underrepresented Black Asheville. UNCA continuously recognizes the diversity and inclusion of Black Asheville into its career readiness and prepares its teachers to teach in a growingly diverse US public school system.


If this is the kind of impact you want to help make in our community, learn more about UNC Asheville’s Education + teacher licensure program.


Do you have an educator who made an impact in your life? Give them a shout out + we may share it in an upcoming newsletter.

Editor’s Note: Answers have been edited for length.