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Coach McMullin at Pathways Elementary is an official NC School Hero!


DATE: MARCH 4, 2021


PHONE: (919) 602-5847


Maria McMullin with BIG check   Principal Lynn Brown with BIG check   Maris McMullin with NC School Heroes Logo


Orange County coach who turns play into learning named NC School Hero


RALEIGH – More than 400 students a week show up for PE each week at Pathways Elementary School in Hillsborough and somehow Coach Maria McMullin makes each one feel important.

The kids at school love Coach McMullin, and it’s easy to see why. She makes gym time fun and engaging by dressing up in costume regularly and tutoring students morning, noon, and night.

“Coach has a way to get all the students to love learning,” said Lynn Brown, principal at the school. “She’s very creative. You never know what you’re going to see when you go to her class, but there’s always an academic component in every one of them. She tricks them into loving their core classes in her PE class.”

Her colleague and friend, Wayne Wilson, the music teacher at school, calls it playing with purpose.

In Coach McMullin’s gym, students learn to work together and develop critical thinking skills, all while incorporating math, literacy, and social skills.

“If it wasn’t for Coach McMullin, our students wouldn’t have nearly as much excitement coming to school,” said Wilson. “She genuinely loves them and cares, not just about what they’re learning in their class, but about who they are and who they’re going to become.”

Coach McMullin is known to sacrifice her planning period to help in other teachers’ classrooms, she answers calls for the school secretary, and she connects with the families at school. She has spearheaded efforts to gather large collections of donated clothing, like jackets in the winter, and housing goods, like mattress for families without beds, to help those in need. She has even helped families find housing and transportation.

“For her, it’s not just about delivering her physical education curriculum,” said Brown. “She’s focused on the whole child, including their sociol-emotional needs too. You don’t find that in all teachers.”

Coach McMullin inspires everyone around her because she loves what she does. She’s been doing it for over 20 years and has no plans to stop any time soon.

“I just love it,” says Coach McMullin. “I wouldn’t be anywhere else!”

The Education Lottery created the NC School Heroes program to showcase the positive impacts teachers, principals, and other school workers have in public schools every day. Parents, teachers, and community members submitted more than 4,900 nominations of individuals making a difference in their schools.

Both the School Hero and their school receive a $10,000 award.

Coach McMullin said her twin boys just started college, so she plans to use her award toward paying their tuition. Brown said that the school will use the money on supplies for teachers and to help families in their community.

“Teachers and school staff have all stepped up for our children during these unprecedented times,” said Mark Michalko, executive director of the N.C. Education Lottery. “The 10 School Heroes selected this year provide a glimpse into the world of these everyday heroes and we are glad to shine a spotlight on their great work.”

Money raised by the lottery assists many of those School Heroes, including $386 million this school year that supports the work of school support staff such as office assistants and custodians. Additional money will help build and repair schools, support the N.C. Pre-K program for “at-risk” four-year-olds, provide college scholarships and grants based on financial need, and help meet school transportation needs.

The lottery raises more than $725 million a year for education. For details on how $7.7 million in lottery funds have made a difference in Orange County, click on the “Impact” section of the lottery’s website,

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