Sometimes it’s the toughest students who make Stuart Albright realize how much he loves teaching. Take the one who moved
to Jordan High in Durham, where Albright teaches English and
creative writing and coaches football.
The student came from a rough neighborhood in another
state, struggled with dyslexia and generally had a poor attitude.
He showed up in Albright’s class and clammed up. But on the last
day of class, he shared a heart-tugging original poem about his
grandmother dying and his having to move.
“I don’t get emotional often, but I lost it,” Albright said. “It’s
classes like that that make you want to keep teaching.”
Plenty of other people want Albright to keep teaching, too. The
Gastonia native in 2006 was named the Durham Public Schools
Teacher of the Year, and in 2007, he received a $25,000 Milken
Educator Award, a national recognition dubbed the “Oscar of
teaching” by Teacher magazine.
LaDwaun Harrison, head football coach at Jordan, has seen
Albright’s driven side. “A lot of people talk about ‘every child can
learn,’ ” Harrison said. “He really believes it.”
Albright also has published three books and started a company
to publish works by his creative writing students. And students,
most of all, want to keep him in the classroom.
“There are students who are just waiting for a teacher like that
to come along and unlock their passion, unlock their dreams and
to truly believe in them,” said former student Chaniqua Nelson.
Journalist, Teacher Receive Distinguished Young Alumni Awards
ONLINE: The GAA’s Distinguished Young Alumni Awards were presented
Oct. 18 at the Alumni Center. The GAA has given the awards since 1989, recognizing
alumni age 40 or younger for bringing credit to the University through their
achievements. Full citations and past recipients are at
Thanassis Cambanis has this advice for aspiring journalists: “Reporters have to go to see things they write about.”
Cambanis, a native of Chapel Hill and a former Daily Tar Heel
editor, has lived that advice as a foreign correspondent focusing on
the Middle East, writing for The New York Times, The Atlantic and
The Boston Globe and publishing a book.
Following his own boots-on-the-ground philosophy in
writing that book, he flew to Lebanon, rented a car and drove
himself to the country’s war-torn southern region, where another
piece of advice came into play: “Constantly question your own
assumptions.” One might assume it would be too dangerous to go
to such places and interview the combatants, but Cambanis found
that “I had nothing to fear from them.”
Besides informing his own reporting, such advice gets passed
along to students at Princeton and Columbia universities, where he
has taught journalism and public affairs.
Quil Lawrence, a National Public Radio correspondent who
ONLINE: Profiles of Albright and Cambanis from the Review (“Soul
has reported upheavals alongside Cambanis, has met some of
Cambanis’ former students in the field in Afghanistan. “Thanassis
has covered wars and uprisings and has never let them darken him,”
Lawrence said. “He is life-affirming, even in the darkest moments.
He has kept a perspective of what’s important in life — family and
Says Peter Wallsten ’ 94, Cambanis’ editor at The Daily Tar Heel:
“He charted his own course then and continues to do that now.”
Catcher,” January/February 2013, and “Conflicts, Near and Far,” March/April 2011)
are available from
alumni.unc.edu/CARarchive; visit their websites at stuartalbright.
Thanassis Cambanis ’ 96, left, and Stuart Alan Albright ’01 are the recipients of the GAA’s 2013 Distinguished Young Alumni Awards.
THANASSIS CAMBANIS ’96:
STUART ALAN ALBRIGHT ’01:
‘Somebody has to be there for them’