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2006 Teacher of the Year

Susan Healy

North Bend Elementary School, Fourth Grade, 12 years of teaching experience in Harford County

Susan Healy, Teacher of the Year
Susan Healy spends a significant portion of her weekends scouring yard sales, not for personal treasures, but for items she can use in her class with her fourth grade students. She makes a connection with each student as a person first, then uses those connections to make learning fun and meaningful.

Nominated by parents of two of her current students, Janice Cavanaugh and Julia Bopst, they say it is Susan Healy's "openness" and her sense of humor that draws students, colleagues, and parents to her. Students in her class write plays incorporating each member of the class into the process of presenting the drama, they make candles, they churn butter, they plant and harvest crops, they have chess tournaments, they pair with students at other grade levels - often serving as 'enrichment teachers' for younger students, they express opinions in classroom discussions, they make puppets, they use state-of-the-art technology, they take well-planned field trips, create bluebird sanctuaries, and they dress in character for the period they are studying.

Ms. Healy has a "genuine respect" for each of her students, striving to uncover particular talents in each one, highlighting them to the class in building each child's self esteem. Last year, she volunteered to have in her class, each student who had struggled during previous years in reading and, by the end of the year, her students showed significant improvement. In writing about the most important quality of a successful teacher, Ms. Healy mentioned "warmth" as the key ingredient.

She 'walked the walk' of her essay when one of her students recently invited everyone to a birthday party and, when it appeared no one could go, she attended personally. Each year, she creates a personal keepsake item for each of her students to remember their fourth grade year.

North Bend's Technology Liaison and a Fellow in the Maryland Technology Academy as well as a presenter in a statewide technology exposition, Ms. Healy offers 'hot topic' sessions for her colleagues where less technologically adept teachers comment on her relaxed manner and support that helps them learn without being intimidated. She makes new teachers welcome by mentoring them and helping them to build their classroom libraries. Her colleagues say her always cheerful attitude is "uplifting and contagious."

Ms. Healy, an eighth generation native Harford Countian who grew up on a local farm, is a member of the County Farm Bureau where she won their 'Gold Award' for outstanding service, and is recipient of a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Bay Schools Project where she was honored as a lead teacher at the Bay Schools Summit in Annapolis. She also has a passion for teaching Maryland history that earned her one of eight state-wide spots in the Historic St. Mary's City Teacher Institute.

She has a bachelor's degree from Salisbury State and a masters in instructional technology from Towson University. A member and officer in the local women's college honor society, she is an ordained elder, deacon and Sunday School teacher who also directs her church's Bell Choir. She serves as hostess to the homeless when they are housed at her church and volunteers at the local food locker.

North Bend Principal Steve Hardy calls Susan Healy's classroom "captivating" where students "reflect their teacher's excitement and joy for learning;" adding, "through her sensitivity, compassion, and care; Ms. Healy has developed positive bonds for life with her students." Acting Principal Gerri Pendill says Ms. Healy has a "special gift" in motivating children to perform to the best of their ability. "No Child Left Behind is a motto that Susan takes to heart as she encourages the success of all children," added Mrs. Pendill.

Former North Bend colleague and current substitute teacher there, Brenda Patterson, says Ms. Healy "puts her heart and soul into all that she does" and her students are the beneficiaries. "Susan nurtures her students on a daily basis and is willing to 'go the extra mile'" by doing whatever it takes to see they are successful, Mrs. Patterson said. "As a result, she has an excellent rapport with students and parents (and) is a mentor to all."

North Bend special educator Susan Melefsky regularly teams with Ms. Healy in reaching all students. "One of Susan's distinguishing trademarks is her ability to finely intertwine her 'own life stories and personal experiences' into the daily lessons," said Mrs. Melefsky. "Whether it be about her tulip garden, church lady meetings, or how she once sewed her finger and went to the emergency room, the students are motivated and drawn in."

Colleague Elaine Garner talks about how Ms. Healy dresses as famous Marylanders from George Calvert to John Brown to reach her students. Parents John and Sandy Palmer count themselves lucky that their two daughters had Ms. Healy as a teacher, both children benefiting from after school instruction in the computer lab and in cross stitching. "Mrs. Healy takes the time to know her children and to follow them after they leave her," the Palmers wrote. "She knows what is at stake and how important her time in their lives is - she makes the most of it." Another parent, Nan Hutton, had an older child go through Ms. Healy's class and her nine-year-old currently in the class. "Susan has a unique way of making each of her 24 students feel like he or she is the most special child in the room at different times," said Mrs. Hutton. "Our family has experienced many great teachers - Susan Healy stands out above the rest."

One of her students, Danielle Hurley, says Ms. Healy "is known throughout the school for being a good role model for children - she brings out the smile in others because she has a wonderful personality." Her Highland Presbyterian Church pastor, the Rev. John Carlson, says Ms. Healy "brings a warm spirit and a wonderful sense of humor to her chosen profession, both during the work week and on Sunday mornings.

In her essay, Ms. Healy says "enthusiasm" is the most important quality for the outstanding teacher. "In my role as a teacher, I get very excited about creating interest in a topic and holding the attention of my students," she wrote. "The true goal of education is to foster a love of learning and motivate each child to use his or her talents to become a creative and thoughtful force in our society."