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2007 Teacher of the Year Finalists

Sondra Cawthorne SONDRA O. CAWTHORNE, English/Reading, Alternative Education Center, 6 years in Harford County – Nominated by the principal and instructional facilitator of the Alternative Education Center, Sondra Cawthorne teaches ninth grade and eleventh grade Reading and English at the facility located in the Aberdeen-based Center for Educational Opportunity where students attend because of economic, social, or disciplinary reasons rather than their home school. Mrs. Cawthorne is credited with taking students who come to the center, often with low self-esteem and little self-confidence, and helping young people to begin believing in themselves again. Mark Buzminsky, her principal, says she never loses focus on helping students in the classroom and to be successful in life. “Mrs. Cawthorne believes that all children learn best in a nurturing environment,” said Mr. Buzminsky. “She provides tough love for each of the students and they enjoy her spirit.” Aberdeen High Principal Tom Szerensits says his longtime friend and colleague “maintains the same level of enthusiasm, drive, and optimism that is most readily seen in a first year teacher,” adding that she “has never lost her love for learning and for students.” He calls her a “role model not only for her students, but the faculty with whom she works.” Joe Mascari, principal at Magnolia Middle School, worked with Mrs. Cawthorne when she was a faculty member there. “She demanded her students reach higher than they believed they could reach (but) showed a sincere interest in them as individuals and was consistently fair in dealing with them.” Steve Cunningham is assistant principal at the Alternative Education Center. “Sondra’s students know that she will not ‘sell’ them short just because they are at Alternative Education – she is aware and compassionate about their individual life stories, but does not use that as an excuse for giving less than her best as an instructor,” he said. “Once they see that she won’t let them flounder, and that she won’t tolerate mediocrity, students start to get themselves psyched up and slowly start to find that a ‘real’ student may be hidden in there somewhere.” Amy Onorato is teacher mentor at the Alternative Education Center. She talks about Mrs. Cawthorne’s “caring attitude and genuine interest in her student’s lives,” adding that she “sets high, yet attainable standards for every student she teaches.” Alternative Education Behavioral Specialist Lance Hawkins said the “consistency and structure” Mrs. Cawthorne provides in every class is “like marrow to the bones for at-risk students,” adding that she takes students “who have seemingly given up on school” and has them “take responsibility and pride in their assignments.” Aberdeen High counselor Marquis Dwarte, a former student of Mrs. Cawthorne in a regular school assignment, says his mentor “willingly exhausts herself to ensure that each student’s maximum potential is fulfilled,” adding, “It is educators like Mrs. Cawthorne who gave me the drive to pursue a career in education with the ultimate goal of making a difference in the lives of students by bringing out the best in each of them.” Colleague Robert Bolth said Mrs. Cawthorne has “motivated me to become a more effective instructor – the creativity and hard work that she pours into every task that she takes on models for professionalism to which we all should aspire.” Another colleague, Ann Cymek, said Mrs. Cawthorne “truly enjoys what she does and the successes her students have are her rewards.” Mrs. Cymek talks about the progress a class Mrs. Cawthorne volunteered to teach this year composed of students reading well below grade level. “They look forward to the class and all have discovered the joy of reading,” she said. “Her daily challenges to the students have made many of them realize they are able to achieve way beyond what they ever had previously – she believes in them, which, in turn, makes them believe in themselves. School Nurse Deborah Avampato talks about her colleague’s empathetic spirit, “providing me with concerns regarding not only the medical but social and emotional concerns of all our students.” Ninth grader Mandy Fox said about her teacher, “She always says to never give up and she is always helping.” Another freshman at the AEC, Angela Myers, says, “She tells me I can do it, and, if I don’t understand, she’s always there to help.” Mike O’Brien, instructional facilitator and co-nominator, said Mrs. Cawthorne is “a model for high quality instruction every day.” Junior Jazmen Gee says his English teacher “is very dedicated to teaching as well as learning – she wants all of her students to succeed and learn as much as they can.” Mrs. Cawthorne’s teaching day extends beyond the regular hours into the evening two days a week. During the summer, she teaches students trying to recover credit. “I have never met a more dedicated educator than Mrs. Cawthorne,” said Mr. O’Brien. Junior Sharayah Levere said, “I always come to her if I’m having trouble with another student.” Another junior, Emily Fahnestock said, “You can talk to her about anything and she doesn’t judge, and that’s hard to find.” Mrs. Cawthorne talks about her most memorable student whom she taught early in her career. Patty Lee, whose dreams of success as a 13-year-old were sidetracked by drugs, was to be incarcerated. Mrs. Cawthorne wrote a poem for her troubled student. “Several months later, I received a letter from Patty Lee, telling me that she had shared my poem with the other girls in her cottage,” Mrs. Cawthorne said. “I was a cocky young teacher then – she opened my eyes – I’ve grown older and wiser – I realize that all students, even those who seem unreachable, deserve our best, and unless we at least try to make a difference, then we cannot call ourselves ‘good’ teachers.”

Jeana Essery JEANA C. ESSERY, Science, Fallston Middle School, 13 years in Harford County – Imagine being part of a cold air mass that meets a warm air mass and experience what happens in that situation or talking to scientists in a submarine – that and much more is what happens in Jeana C. Essery’s Fallston Middle School sixth grade science class every day. Meteorology, oceanography, extensive use of the internet, satellite tracking, and other hands-on activities build excitement and enthusiasm in her class. Nominated by her principal, Kaye Blome, Mrs. Essery is described as providing a risk-free environment with instructional strategies that allow for student success. From lining up in the hallway to replicate the solar system, to throwing objects of varying shapes and weights off the balcony to determine the effects of gravity, to students making their own barometers, Mrs. Essery builds excitement for science learning. She invites special needs students into her classroom and includes them in activities. She is described as a person whom “you never see in a bad mood or hear a negative word from her.” Hugs, smiles, and a listening ear make her a mentor and role model to her colleagues and is known as Fallston Middle’s “Good Will Ambassador.” Honored by having her class chosen as one of 12 in the country to take part in a satellite conversation with oceanographers on the floor of the Pacific, Mrs. Essery, nonetheless, cites “Danny” as her most memorable student. Having a master’s degree in Special Education and Elementary Education, Mrs. Essery worked with Danny for three years in middle school. “Dan was genuine – when he was happy, he let you know, and when he was not happy, he let you know, too (and) he expected others to do the same. “He made me laugh every day and, if he was absent, the classroom felt different, and he was genuinely missed.” Mrs. Essery said Danny taught her to be patient, adding, “He taught me you should always give people the benefit of the doubt and treat everyone as a friend, without judgment.” Mrs. Blome cites Mrs. Essery’s movement from special education to science as contributing her patience and kindness. “Students seek her out for support when they need someone to listen – she has a calm presence and is able to analyze situations and determine solutions,” Mrs. Blome said. “She is a quiet, behind the scenes teacher who pushes students to experience success while she remains in the background so that the focus is on the student.” Teacher Mentor Ken Horn talks about Mrs. Essery’s student-centered, engaging lessons that use the latest technology with hands-on activities that lead to real life science applications. “In addition to her exemplary science lessons, Mrs. Essery is keenly aware of her student’s individual needs,” he said. HCPS Science Supervisor Dennis Kirkwood says it is Mrs. Essery’s love of science and willingness to be a learner along with her students that is a major asset to her instruction. “She models what she wants her students to be – enthusiastic learners and practitioners of new knowledge and skills,” Dr. Kirkwood said. FMS seventh grader Jade Petrucci remembers his time in Mrs. Essery’s class last year. “Science class was challenging, but we were successful because Mrs. Essery made learning fun – when we were learning about volcanoes, we did a very fun experiment where we took a bottle of Diet Coke and dropped a pack of Mentos inside the bottle – it made quite an explosion,” said Jade. “Mrs. Essery has made a huge impact on me and I will never forget her class.” Another former student, Amanda English said Mrs. Essery made every student “fall in love with sixth grade science – she was the best science teacher I ever had and I will never forget her.” Still another student from a year ago, Sarah Bittle, talked about the Volvo Ocean Race in which Mrs. Essery involved her class last year, mentioning a field trip to the Inner Harbor. Winners of the essay contest connected with the activity enjoyed meeting the ship’s crew, watching their teacher lie in a shaky hammock on the U.S.S. Constellation, sample the hard, dry, simple food, and help clean decks. “She makes every day better and more exciting for people,” Sarah said. Mrs. Essery is her team’s service learning coordinator, sponsoring ‘Cougar Friends,’ an after school group where students associate with children with special needs. One more former student, Matthew Wang, called Mrs. Essery “patient, fun, kind, understanding – and she makes the most dumb-sounding experiences special and interesting – she made learning fun, and is an inspiration to me that will stay with me for a long time to come.” Jennifer Schoensein loved her sixth grade science experience last year, saying her teacher “took science to the next level, making it fun and exciting.” Kelly Kundratic, the student who, as a sixth grader, talked to oceanographers on the floor of the Pacific, was chosen as one of Maryland Pride’s representatives that year. “She adopted a turtle for us to watch and keep track of – every week we would watch this turtle’s path and that would be part of our lesson,” said the current eighth grader. “She is a truly amazing teacher –without her influence, I don’t think I would be as interested in science as I am now.” Eighth grader Matthew Kenner said he looks up to Mrs. Essery, even though he is taller than his former teacher. “I had no clue how much fun science would be – her teaching skills surpass all others and her kind, loving, gentle and down-to-earth attitude is one you can’t seem to get enough of.”

Kathleen Garafola KATHLEEN A. GARAFOLA, Second Grade, North Bend Elementary School, 9 years in Harford County – “Warm and inviting; caring and nurturing” is the description of the climate in Kathy Garafola’s class. Consistently asking the question “Why?” – Ms.Garafola employs her conversational style with “think-alouds” or “hmmm, I’m thinking…” to stimulate thought. Described as “intuitive and energetic,” her students respond to the gentle challenges she issues with enthusiasm. Nominated by parents of three students in her class, Ms.Garafola is said to have an “instinctive ability” to find the strengths in her students, and then highlights those positives to others in the class. As Teacher-in-Charge at North Bend, she has developed a unique relationship with substitute teachers, acting as staff liaison and troubleshooter to assure a smooth flow each workday. Last year, she served for a time as acting assistant principal, transforming discipline situations into learning and healing opportunities for students. Her nominators say she as a “wonderful rapport” with parents, giving her home phone number to all parents and encouraging them to use it whenever the need arises. Ms. Garafola began her professional life has a successful businesswoman, but felt the “call” to teaching, returning to school and earning a 3.9 GPA in education; and then completed her masters with a similar 3.9 GPA all the while raising an active family. Her principal, Steven Hardy, says Ms. Garafola’s classroom is “hallmarked by excitement and enthusiasm for teaching and learning.” He talks about her “can do” attitude that is infectious with her students. Mr. Hardy said Ms. Garafola is “an exemplary role model for her students, parents, and colleagues” and displays pride in being a professional educator. Assistant Principal Gerri Pendill mentions Ms. Garafola’s professional ability as an example to other teachers but says her “kindness and cheerfulness” may be even more important to students and colleagues. One of her graduate professors at Towson University, Dr. Ronald Thomas says his prize student is an “analytical and reflective thinker.” Magnolia Elementary Assistant Principal Mark Etzel taught with Ms. Garafola when both were at Church Creek Elementary. “Top-notch, always trustworthy, consistently professional, supremely dedicated,” is the way he describes her. “Each pupil benefited from Kathy going above and beyond the call of duty – looking back, now as a father of three children, I would be thrilled, even gratified, just to be lucky enough to have one of my own children placed in her classroom,” Mr. Etzel said. North Bend Special Educator Susan Melefksy said her colleague “touches the hearts” of her students “in a way like no other,” adding, “Whenever students are in her presence, they instantly feel important.” Para-educator Annette Kalaczynski has worked with Ms. Garafola on a daily basis for the past five years. “She is a natural problem solver in the face of adversity – she fosters an inviting learning atmosphere that engages all children all the time.” Martha McIntyre and her daughter Carly wrote a joint letter in support of Ms. Garafola’s nomination as Teacher of the Year. Carly re-entered North Bend three years ago in the third quarter of her second grade year, noting Ms. Garafola’s reaction upon learning she had a new student so late in the year. “Her face lit up in excitement as if she had just been given a present she had always wanted – she came right over to us and hugged my daughter,” she said. Carly listed words like “enthusiastic,” “she listens,” “she understands,” “respect,” “patient,” “loves her job,” “keeps her promises,” “fun and funny,” “fair,” “kind and cares” in describing her former teacher. “Ms. Garafola made quite an impact on my daughter, who has decided she would like to be a teacher (and teach) the way Ms. Garafola teaches.” Current fourth grader, Billy Jump, had Ms. Garafola as his teacher in the second grade. His mother, Stacey Jump, described issues her son had with separation anxiety and that Ms. Garafola volunteered to personally call Billy if she ever woke up sick and wasn’t able to come to school. “One morning at 7:00 a.m. I heard the phone ring (Billy answered it and told me) it was Ms. Garafola – ‘she called to tell me she can’t come to school today (and) not to worry, she picked out a very friendly substitute for me’,” related Mrs. Jump. “”His teacher thought so much of him she actually called to let him know she would be out.” Two of Mary Morris’ children had Ms. Garafola for a teacher. “The children adore and respect her,” Mrs. Morris said. “As a parent, I could not ask for a better teacher for my children.” Megan Garafola, a college junior, said her mother is a “model mother, friend, and community member,” having experienced along with her younger sister being raised by a mother who balanced gaining her teaching credentials and motherhood. “”I never realized how difficult this time must have been for my mother – I can’t imagine completing all of my work with a 4.0 GPA with two little girls at home,” she said. Ms. Garafola talks about her most memorable student, Essra, who came to her class from Kuwait where she had endured the realities of war. Essra taught Ms. Garafola and her class that year, as much as she learned from the teacher and class.

Brian Gunter BRIAN J. GUNTER, Math, C. Milton Wright High School, 9 years in Harford County – It’s common for math teachers to seek upper level students with whom they can explore complicated concepts and benefit from the students’ self motivation. Brian Gunter goes the other direction. “This past year, after being offered a teaching schedule with higher level math courses, Mr. Gunter approached the administration and requested to work with students with special needs and students in need of remediation,” said C. Milton Wright High Acting Principal Chris Battaglia. “Mr. Gunter models all the positive attributes of a master teacher – his students always perform well.” Mr. Battaglia added that Mr. Gunter is a key member of the freshman Mustang Transition program that helps ninth graders become assimilated into high school. A C. Milton Wright High graduate himself and former high school and college athlete, Mr. Gunter coaches the Mustang soccer team and the “game-playing” extends into his classroom. Fellow math teacher Beverly Dize says he has “little contests” going all the time, from class rewards for students arriving on time ready to work, to the sharing of “good news” by students at the start of the class to the applause of classmates, to having students be able to choose a classmate and provide a “save” when they don’t know the correct answer. “I have the privilege of teaching Mr. Gunter’s former students – they all love him, they think he’s ‘cool’,” said Ms. Dize. “He is constantly offering words of encouragement to his students, complimenting them for a job well done in and outside the classroom – his positive attitude is contagious.” Another C. Milton Wright High math teacher, Andrea Wolfe, talks about Mr. Gunter’s “contagious enthusiasm” which not only inspires students, but his colleagues as well. “It was Brian who convinced our faculty to adopt the ‘Capturing Kids Hearts’ program; it was Brian who inspired our faculty Relay for Life team to commit to raising $10,000 (for cancer research),” said Mrs. Wolfe. “He praises students and insists on an atmosphere of respect, humor, and work ethic in the classroom.” This year, Mr. Gunter volunteered to teach ninth grade math courses to assist struggling students. Still another math colleague, Leslie Giambalvo says Mr. Gunter greets every student at his classroom door with a handshake, a smile, and a verbal greeting. “The students matter to him – he is, without exception, positive about the kids.” From the beginning of his career, Brian Gunter has gone above and beyond for his students. Having begun as a Social Studies teacher, he realized the subject was not the best fit for him, so he left teaching for a time to complete his certification in Math. “To this day, I’m impressed that Mr. Gunter chose to incur the extra cost and take the extra time to become certified in a content where he knew he could best teach the students of Harford County, said nine-year C. Milton Wright High English teacher Brian Rhinehardt, who began his career the same year as Mr. Gunter and now teaches struggling students on the same ninth grade team. “He often stays after school to tutor, and on occasions, he has stayed after to play chess with one of our more shy and withdrawn students – he is the perfect teacher to help motivate and instruct such a challenging population of students.” CMWHS Media Specialist Alyssa King joked that “it’s like a party every day” in Mr. Gunter’s class – but the party is all about learning. Working collaboratively with Special Educator Chad Richie, the two “high five” students as the young people enter class, building excitement for the learning that is to follow. Mr. Gunter often shows short clips from inspirational movies to motivate students. He also uses PowerPoint presentations, LCD projectors, Cognitive Math Tutor on classroom computers – anything to reach his students. Writing about his most memorable student, Mr. Gunter reveals his “human” side, noting the young man he mentored in class and on the athletic field for four years has, after graduation, succumbed to drug use and been arrested several times. “I feel I have let (him) down in some way – I wonder if there were other things I could have done as a teacher and a coach to keep him on the right path,” Mr. Gunter wrote.“Ultimately, I have learned that students have to choose to help themselves, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to improve each day.” Holder of a master’s degree in administration from the University of Delaware, Mr. Gunter captained that university’s soccer team as an undergraduate. In addition to boys soccer, he has also coached girls lacrosse at the school.

Sheralyn Heinly SHARALYN R. HEINLY, Math, North Harford Middle School, 14 years in Harford County – Math and fun are not always considered synonymous – that is, unless you happen to be talking about Sharalyn Heinly’s seventh grade math classes at North Harford Middle School. Students learn “mean, median, and mode” by singing to the tune of “Three Blind Mice.” The “Quadratic Formula” is taught with the song “Jingle Bells.” Hopscotch is used with a special needs student to “hop” through the steps of a lesson. Mrs. Heinly has adopted the role of “Princess of Pylesville,” a pizza shop owner, she’s played baseball with Cal Ripken, gone on secret missions, and performed other “whacky” stunts, all to gain and maintain the interest of her students. Said one of her students, AnneMarie, “She adds spunk, creativity, and really cool ways to help us remember hard concepts and help us understand this algebra.” Her nominator, colleague James O’Leary, said students “feel comfortable making mistakes” in Mrs. Heinly’s classroom because they know their self worth is not challenged and their successes are consistently applauded. Sammi, another student, said, “Mrs. Heinly would NEVER make a student, or anyone, feel stupid; and Eric added, “Mrs. Heinly has a way of making you feel smart.” She makes three to five phone calls a week to various students’ homes and sends postcards bragging about their success. An accomplished sign language teacher, she donates her time to groups where deafness is an issue. She is an active Sunday School teacher, volunteers at summer camps, coordinated her church’s Neighbors in Need campaign, served at soup kitchens, and sang at a nursing home, among many other charitable ventures. Mrs. Heinly regularly exercises in North Harford Middle’s fitness lab, inspiring her students to do the same. Upon learning of a colleague’s two-year-old child’s diabetes diagnosis she has committed to run in the 5K Walk for the Cure for Juvenile Diabetes; and will take part in the 5K Race for the Cure of Breast Cancer. Mrs. Heinly has her master’s and 30 credits beyond – all achieved with at least a 3.9 GPA. In addition to teaching seventh grade math, she has taught preschool/kindergarten for deaf children, second and fifth grade, and has been an adjunct faculty member of Harford Community College since 1990. Her principal Bruce Kovacs called Mrs. Heinly “truly outstanding,” having become acquainted with her originally when he was a student in one of her sign language classes. “She treats all students with a warm, professional demeanor – her energy and animation makes math come alive, and students find themselves learning a subject that many often fear,” Dr. Kovacs said. “The joy of teaching is evident is Mrs. Heinly’s work.” Her math supervisor, Sarah Morris, said Mrs. Heinly is “empathetic to her students, is committed to student success, and is well respected by her colleagues,” adding that she has served as a cooperating teacher for student teachers and model teacher for newly hired HCPS middle school math instructors. Supervisor of Staffing for the Harford County Public Schools, Margaret Goodson, knew ‘Squeak’ Heinly when Mrs. Heinly taught the hearing impaired and then fifth graders at Emmorton Elementary during the time Mrs. Goodson was principal there. “She was an excellent advocate not only for her (hearing impaired) students, but for all students – making sure her students had the richest possible educational experience,” Mrs. Goodson said. Keith Hodges has worked with Mrs. Heinly at the Camp Manatawny in the summer, calling her an “invaluable part of our teaching staff,” going beyond expectations to act as “camp Mom,” unofficial “counselor,” and a role-model for all. John Niblett, mentor teacher at North Harford Middle, said Mrs. Heinly oversees a “miraculous and rare” feat by convincing students that what they thought was the daunting, impenetrable, and mysterious subject of mathematics is really a joyful experience, calling it the “Heinly Principle.” He said he often directs new teachers to Mrs. Heinly’s class to see how it should be done, from the use of up-to-the-minute technology to the employing of expert teaching techniques. “The joyful experience of mathematics learning that Mrs. Heinly creates for her students inspires high levels of math performance at the same time building students’ confidence in their learning abilities in all areas,” he said. Mr. O’Leary calls Mrs. Heinly “the best with whom I have taught,” adding that “she fans the fires of the students who already burn with a love of math” while taking the mystery out of the subject for the less math oriented. “She makes math sing, literally and figuratively – I watch as students walk into her room with smiles on their faces, not because they all love math, but because they love Mrs. Heinly.” Susan Brown, coordinator of intervention for the school system and parent of a student in her class, says “teaching and learning is Mrs. Heinly’s mission every day.” One of her students, Nicole Kropkowski, says “she never gives up on people (and) she makes us laugh – not in a joking way – but in her lessons – I go into her room (knowing) the class is going to be happy and fun.” Another student, Hannah Wise, says the songs Mrs. Heinly makes up to reinforce lessons have made math make sense. “Mrs. Heinly always makes us feel smart and confident,” she said. James Greene is an eighth grader at North Harford Middle who first met Mrs. Heinly as a struggling sixth grade math student when she volunteered to tutor him, sharing her favorite M&M candies with him. “Soon, I was gaining confidence in math – I was no longer afraid,” he said, adding he was fortunate to have Mrs. Heinly as his seventh grade math teacher. “She made math fun, enjoyable, and exciting for the whole class,” James said. “Every day, when we walked into the classroom, Mrs. Heinly’s smile cheered up the class and lit up the classroom.” Mrs. Heinly’s most memorable student was ‘Vivian,’ a four-year-old foster child who was visually impaired and profoundly deaf. “I worked with Vivian for three years, teaching her language and academics as well as life skills (but) she taught me a lot,” said Mrs. Heinly. “She taught me to always show compassion to others – it’s impossible to know what situations and life struggles our students are facing.”

Angela Jones ANGELA S. JONES, Vocal Music/Chorus, North Harford Middle School, 10 in Harford County – Her nominator, colleague Lisa Mullen, says Angie Jones “breathes, eats, and sleeps music,” teaching more than 390 students a year and spreading her love of music through church and community work. “A ball of energy, Angie amazes me; she not only inspires her students, she inspires me to be a better teacher,” Mrs. Mullen said. Kara, one of her students, calls Mrs. Jones’ style of teaching “hip,” adding, I can assure you, there is never a dull moment in chorus.” Desiree says just walking into Mrs. Jones class, “you feel happy (because she is always happy and perky.” Another student, Leah, says, “She is an amazing role model for kids – she teaches us self-confidence, self respect, and respect for others.” Rachel adds, “She inspires me every day – in my mind, she is the do-it-all woman.” Her supervisor, Jim Boord, says Mrs. Jones “has created a vocal music program that has high musicianship expectations – students who complete the choral program at North Harford Middle School are literate musicians.” A student of hers, Becca, says Mrs. Jones “does not just teach us songs, she teaches us the meaning behind the lyrics.” Mrs. Jones’ choirs consistently earn “superior” ratings. She hosts North Harford Area Choral Day when students in elementary, middle, and high school choral programs come together to make beautiful music. All students compose original songs and perform in a recital. Mentor Teacher John Niblett says he was “moved” by a recent visit to Mrs. Jones’ classroom where she used music to teach a powerful character education lesson. One of her students, Heather, said Mrs. Jones made her feel “like part of her musical family – she will do anything to help you – when I came here, I thought I was the worst singer ever (but) she helped me know I can sing. She spends her planning, lunch, and after school time preparing students for All State auditions, solo and ensemble, or tutors those who need a little extra help. Another student, James, says, “She can make any student sound like a star and feel like a star – she is the best teacher ever.” Mrs. Jones is the choir director of her church and teaches music to Sunday school students, plays in the church’s Praise Band, and, each summer, provides music instruction for Vacation Bible School. She works with church members to sing at nursing homes and soup kitchens. As Student Service Organization (SSO) advisor for her school, she has helped students care about others, involving students to visit nursing homes, create care packages, make jewelry, and perform other services for the elderly and needy. Her choral students serve meals and entertain at a local senior citizens center and collected non-perishable food items for ‘Harvest for the Hungry,’ as well as adopted a soldier in Iraq whom they write to every week along with sending twice-a-month care packages. She has been the North Harford Middle Social Committee Chair for nine years, sending remembrances to faculty members who have suffered a loss in their family, as well as organizing staff social events, earning the title of the “heart” of North Harford Middle. At the beginning of each school year, each student receives a letter from Mrs. Jones describing herself and her hopes for the school year, while encouraging students to write back and include a picture. She celebrates even small student accomplishments by sending “good news” postcards to their parents who are invited to recitals. Mrs. Jones created the Sara Catherine Tyrell Distinguished Choral Award, in honor of a student who died in a car accident, orchestrating a tree-planting ceremony in the young person’s memory. “Sara was a wonderful and talented young lady, an honor student, a dedicated athlete, a peer helper, an avid reader/writer, a flutist, a dancer, and a choral member,” said her mother Margaret Tyrell, who had three other children taught by Mrs. Jones. “Our biggest fear was that Sara would be forgotten, but, when Angie stands in front of a packed auditorium after the Spring Concert (and presents the Sara Tyrell Award), she brings our daughter to ‘life,’ an annual gift of love and remembrance (in which) she reminds us that Sara’s life on earth was a miracle that changed the world and left it a better place.” Possessor of a master of music education (4.0 GPA) from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University, she was also a magna cum laude undergraduate student. She is president-elect of the Maryland Choral Educators Association and is the ten-year Music Department Chair at North Harford Middle. “Angie’s reputation as a superior teacher has spread beyond Harford County,” said Maryland Music Educators Association Executive Director Mary Ellen Cohn. “She is energetic and organized; she gets the job done, done right, and done on time,” said Mrs. Cohn. One of Mrs. Jones’ students, Molly Shephard, is convinced there is more than one Mrs. Jones, pointing to all she does as a teacher, choral director, and student advocate. Katrina Schulz was a student of Mrs. Jones’ from 1997-1999, being named the only middle school student in the county to be a member of the Maryland All-State Junior Chorus in 1998, an honor she attributes to the “inspirational and talented” Mrs. Jones. Currently a fourth year pharmacy student at Rutgers University, Ms. Schulz said she has still “never come across a teacher as dedicated and inspiring as Mrs. Jones.” Aimee O’Neill’s two sons have experienced the uncanny talent and caring of Mrs. Jones as members of her class and chorus. “Mrs. Jones has a sincere enthusiasm for music and learning which she shares with her students in an apparently tireless manner,” Mrs. O’Neill said. Highly respected North Harford High Choral Director Marty Banghart said Mrs. Jones has “a twinkle in her eye, a spring to her step, and a melody in her heart,” adding her students follow her “as if she was the Pied Piper,” and noting, “Angie has been sending me highly motivated and prepared vocal students for the past ten years.” Mrs. Jones calls “Robert,” a deaf and mentally challenged student, as her most memorable. Her efforts resulted in his playing ‘Yankee Doodle’ without missing a note on an acoustic guitar at the class recital in front of parents, students, and teachers; getting a standing ovation when he was finished; and flashing a “huge smile that I will never forget.” Mrs. Jones added, “I desire that, at the end of the day, all my students’ lives are enriched because of the experiences in my classroom; I know they have certainly blessed me.”

Lisa Keller LISA L. KELLER, Fourth Grade, Fountain Green Elementary School, 5 years in Harford County – In her second year of teaching, Benjamin S. entered Lisa Keller’s third grade class full of anger and defiance, his reputation as a belligerent bully well earned. On the first day of school, without a word, he pushed his way past her where she was greeting students. Walking around the room, Mrs. Keller complimented Benjamin on the shirt he was wearing, not the reaction he expected from his entrance. “Behind that gruff exterior was a little boy who desperately wanted and needed to be liked by someone,” she said, noting that, slowly he learned to control his temper. “I’ll never forget the first time he smiled (or) the first time he gave me a quick hug rushing out the door during dismissal.” Benjamin is now 22-years old and attempting to finish college. “Benjamin once told me that he learned something during his third grade year – that he was someone special and he was in control of his life’s choices – he has often thanked me for just ‘liking’ him,” said Mrs. Keller. “I learned something that year – when students know that you really do care, their learning potential is unlimited.” The scenario is typical of Mrs. Keller’s years in the classroom where her principal, Angela Morton, says she “maintains a classroom environment in which mutual respect is modeled and a positive ‘can-do’ attitude toward learning is embraced.” Her former principal at Mountain Christian School, Nadine Wellington, says Mrs. Keller “epitomizes the standards of excellence we desire in all educators (and) her commitment of time, energy, and enthusiasm is exceptional.” Peggy Konopka, the Instructional Facilitator at Fountain Green Elementary, talks about a data binder Mrs. Keller has created in which she tracks the progress of each of her students, adding that she is a “dedicated and nurturing teacher (who) strives to know her students personally as well as academically.” Third grade teacher and special educator at Fountain Green, Amy Glover calls Mrs. Keller “a gifted teacher, especially in writing,” adding that her management skills are exceptional. Wendy Dail, who is Fountain Green’s Gifted and Talented teacher, credits the work ethic of Mrs. Keller and her positive attitude. “Her optimistic attitude keeps the classroom upbeat and personable,” she said. “Mrs. Keller’s students are aware that she truly cares about each and every one of them.” Marci Ziemski said her son Ian has become an enthusiastic reader in Mrs. Keller’s class. “When a teacher is able to have such a profound affect and gain such positive, measurable outcomes in even one student is considered a great accomplishment,” Mrs. Ziemski said. “However, when the same is true about every student in her class, it would be nearly impossible to be explained by any other reason than through the efforts of a most effective teacher.” Michael Nolte is in Mrs. Keller’s class this year and calls her “the best teacher I have ever had” noting how his teacher “has helped me improve my grades by doing funny poems and silly songs that stick in your brain – sometimes I even come home at night singing them.” Steven Gray, another of her current students, talks about the “Mrs. Keller virus” he and his classmates have caught this year. Still another current student, McKenzie O’Connor, said she has learned a lot about being organized and staying on top of her studies, saying that being in Mrs. Keller’s class is like “having a mom in school – she gives love and hugs when I need them (and) makes sure I am doing the right things in my schoolwork.” She said Mrs. Keller makes her know she is a “special student” and learning is fun because all students take part. Ethan Bloomfield is another student in Mrs. Keller’s class this year who says his teacher makes him smile. “She is like the sun coming up on a droopy, rainy day, drying up the sadness with its sunny warmth.” Ethan says his weakness as a student is writing, but Mrs. Keller has made the difference for him. Nominated by Ethan’s mother, Jillian Bloomfield, Mrs. Keller is said to be “23 teachers in one” with her ability to individualize instruction. The nomination points to Mrs. Keller’s “natural enthusiasm” and “passion and energy” along with her organization as a perfect combination for success. The nomination says she has “genuine faith” in each child’s capacity to learn, helping students to believe in themselves. Fountain Green Elementary was named a Maryland Center for Character Education, thanks, in part, to Mrs. Keller’s having been an active participant in that area. A former mentor teacher at Harford Community College and in Baltimore County, she continues assisting her colleagues. She has a master’s with honors; and, as a first year teacher was nominated for the Most Promising Teacher award. Over the next 17 years teaching in public and private school, she has been nominated for ‘Who’s Who Among American Teachers,’ and for the ‘Excellence in Education’ award while in Baltimore County.

Rebekah McCord REBEKAH R. MC CORD, English, Joppatowne High School, 5 years in Harford County – Nominated by one of her students, Victoria Butt, Rebekah McCord is called an “inspiration to all those around her,” believing in students even when they don’t believe in themselves. As a freshman English teacher, Mrs. McCord helps ease the transition into high school, especially for students struggling academically and socially. Using “pop culture” to help relate what she’s teaching to students, she knows how to reach reluctant students by sparking their interest. Sponsor of both the Bible Club and Forensics team, Mrs. McCord talks about ‘Victoria,’ her most memorable student who combines the two traits her teacher admires most – dedication and humility. “She is one of the busiest high school students I’ve ever observed, and yet she has learned the value of honoring each commitment that she accepts – not only to her work, but to the people she works with and for,” Mrs. McCord said. “It is this demonstration of character that inspires me to be a better teacher.” For her part, Victoria, now a senior, says Mrs. McCord has been the most influential teacher she has ever had. Having been a member of Mrs. McCord’s honors freshman English class (a class she calls tough but beneficial), she says her all-time favorite teacher “teaches through her lifestyle,” adding, “The lessons she taught me have been invaluable and character shaping – I don’t know if I would be the same person I am today without Mrs. McCord in my life.” Jane Russell, Joppatowne High School Psychologist, said Mrs. McCord treats all students, even the most challenging ones, with dignity and respect. “Of the many professionals with whom I have worked in my 20 years as a school psychologist, there are few who match the caliber and dedication of Rebekah McCord,” Mrs. Russell said. “Students in crisis have felt comfortable seeking her out.” Joppatowne High Principal Macon Tucker calls Mrs. McCord a “cornerstone” of the school. “Mrs. McCord is a model professional for all our teachers and is committed in her work with students and colleagues,” Mr. Tucker said. Andrew Pesci is the school’s Strategic Reading Coach and has witnessed firsthand “how truly amazing Rebekah is in her approach to teaching as well as in her interaction with each and every student.” Mr. Pesci said Mrs. McCord arms her students with a variety of reading strategies enabling them to grow from passive readers to those who are proficient at the most important academic skill. “Since Rebekah has an uncanny ability when it comes to teaching, she is extremely confident and always opens her door to any teacher as well as the State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick,” Mr. Pesci said. Douglas Bowman recently returned to teaching after 20 years in business, and was befriended by Mrs. McCord. “As I stood staring at this space, Ms. McCord entered, introduced herself, and spent an hour of her time orienting me to the school,” he said. “It is this generosity with her time that typifies Ms. McCord’s dedication to teaching – she is a tireless planner and a supportive co-worker.” Having started a poetry club in addition to her other responsibilities, Mrs. McCord “exemplifies a caring teacher – her supportive manner, her empathetic nature, and her dedication to her students’ education are at the heart of what makes her worthy of the Teacher of the Year,” Mr. Bowman said. “In a profession where cynicism is often needed to cope with the challenges of the job, Rebekah is unwavering in communicating how much she cares about her students and their learning.” Mrs. McCord is a consistent supporter of all JHS extra-curricular activities, from selling tickets at football games to her attendance at school dramatic productions, concerts, and other events. Mrs. McCord is currently working on her master’s program in reading at Johns Hopkins University.

Christine Roland CHRISTINE C. ROLAND, Biology/Forensic Science, Edgewood High School, 5 years in Harford County – Nominated by her fellow Biology teacher Amy Woolf, Christine Roland is a native of Switzerland where she prepared in the fields of advertising and public relations. Fluent in three languages, she worked for a time as a SCIBA instructor in Egypt and Honduras. After moving to the United States, she switched her focus to Biology and earned her BS degree at Towson University, combining all of her life experiences to become the “Science Diva” of Edgewood High School, as the sign reads on her classroom door. Mark Herzog, HCPS Assistant Supervisor of Science, calls Mrs. Roland “one of the best pure teachers I have ever watched in action,” adding “there is something attractive, in the best sense of that word, that draws the learner to the teacher and ultimately makes the learner wish to be like the teacher.” In the relatively short five years she has been at Edgewood High, she has secured a Chesapeake Bay Trust to build a classroom pond, has won two curriculum awards, has been involved in Marine Science curriculum writing, and was the designer and creator of a “Dancing Nucleotides” DVD last year. The most well known of her innovations is the creation of the Forensic Science course. Both Mr. Herzog and her principal, Joe Schmitz, say they sometimes almost dread calls from the innovative teacher. “I just know she is going to ask me something that will involve changing the bell schedule, or adding to the master schedule, or releasing kids from other classes for a period, or telling teachers they can’t park where they’d like for a week, or otherwise disrupting a creature of routine,” said Mr. Schmitz. “But, I have learned not to say no to her, because I can always have confidence that when she approaches with one of her grand and wild schemes that it is going to provide a special and enjoyable learning experience for her students, and sometimes for the rest of us in the building, as well.” EHS English Department Chair Beth Hoffman says she is not a jealous person by nature, but truly envies Mrs. Roland. “She exemplifies everything in a teacher that others in the profession aspire to be, and she does it with a grace and style each and every day that compounds my envy,” said Ms. Hoffman. Even that ‘Science Diva’ sign is misleading, said Ms. Hoffman, since Mrs. Roland possesses none of the snobbish attributes of true divas, but “has a deeply held belief that every student, no matter their background or personal beliefs, can excel in school, life, and most importantly, in science.” Mrs. Roland brought the BioBus to Edgewood High so students could “live” Biology. Heidi Marcotte’s daughter, Aliah, is a student in Mrs. Roland’s class. “She looks up to Mrs. Roland because of the great example she sets and is always excited to go to her class,” Mrs. Marcotte said. “She truly brings the art of science to life – she motivates the students in such a way that they are able to achieve more than they think they are actually capable of.” Marie Koros Fields said her daughter, as a result of being in Mrs. Roland’s class, now wants to go to college and major in biology. Amanda Lucker is a student in Mrs. Roland’s class this year, after her brother had been there two years before. “There wasn’t one day that my brother and now I haven’t walked out of her class without a smile,” Amanda said. “You can see her passion and love for biology – she has animals from little fish to snakes; (and) she even put a pond in the back of her room with turtles and pond fish.” Even more important to Amanda is Mrs. Roland’s “wonderful personality (and) unique way of teaching – she’s not just a teacher to me – she’s more like a friend (because) she cares so much for her students.” Ana Bunger said she entered Biology last year expecting “the most boring class in the world” but, now, “my life has never been the same since – without her, I wouldn’t be taking AP Biology next year, or majoring in Biology in college (and) I would not be so passionate about Biology.” Adam Sitzes is another former student of Mrs. Roland’s, having been in her Honors Biology and Forensic Science classes. Last year, he was Mrs. Roland’s student aide. “During this year, I noticed how much Mrs. Roland cared for each of her students – she had a connection with each one of them and knew each of their study habits,” he said. Mrs. Woolf said Mrs. Roland “will be the teacher who students talk about at their 20-year class reunion – her students know they are expected to put forth efforts that match their teacher’s effort to fulfill the unspoken contract that Christine has with them.” Mrs. Woolf said her colleague is a “role model for professional development,” having lobbied to get common planning time for Biology teachers and taking the lead for the professional learning community that focuses on raising Biology High School Assessment scores. Julie Wolf, senior lecturer in the Department of Biological Sciences at UMBC, said Mrs. Roland’s “Dancing Nucleotide” DVD, with students playing different roles identified by colored t-shirts, with an epic poem written and narrated by one of her students, was magnificent. “I have met some creative and dedicated teachers in my dozen years of teaching professional development biology courses, but Mrs. Roland stands out as a real treasure,” Ms. Wolf said. Mrs. Roland said ‘Lizzie’ Byer is her most memorable student, providing an example of a student who was self-described “not smart enough” and science not really being her thing; who, now, after success in three upper level science courses is a mentor tutor for younger Biology students. “Lizzie has proven beyond any doubt that there is no such thing as an ‘honor student’ or ‘dumb student,’ that there are no accurate labels,” Mrs. Roland said.

Andrea Yeager ANDREA F. YEAGER, Kindergarten, Abingdon Elementary School, 13 years in Harford County – Mary is the ‘shining star’ that stands out among the more than 450 students Andrea Yeager has taught in the 13 years she has been a kindergarten teacher. Mary was the first autistic child Mrs. Yeager had taught. From Mary, Mrs. Yeager learned routines are necessary and flexibility is essential. “Mary was the reason I chose to earn my master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education,” Mrs. Yeager said. Nominated by her principal, Kathleen Burr, Mrs. Yeager is called a “truly inspiring teacher.” Edgewood High School senior Kyle Munley was a kindergarten student of Mrs. Yeager’s 13 years ago when she was Miss Baran and in her first year of teaching. “She made everything we did so much fun we almost didn’t realize it was work,” Kyle remembers. “Mrs. Yeager had a profound effect on my life – the encouragement that Mrs. Yeager gave me started me reading (and) I was reading at the fifth grade level by the time I started first grade.” Casandra Struve’s two daughters had Mrs. Yeager as their kindergarten teacher. Morgan is now a 17-year-old junior at C. Milton Wright and Olivia is a 13-year-old eighth grader at Southampton Middle School. “She had such a strong influence on both of my children and their early first impression of school and a teacher’s role in their lives in such a positive way,” Mrs. Struve said, noting kindergarten was the first time her daughters had been separated from her. “She helped this be such a positive transition time for my children which I believe helped build a strong foundation and had a positive impact on their self-esteem and outlook on school.” Ginny Smith, the school system’s Coordinator of Early Childhood Education, said Mrs. Yeager has been instrumental in guiding the vision and curriculum of the early childhood program for the school system. “She is a master kindergarten teacher who parents should appreciate as their child’s first exposure to education,” Mrs. Smith said. “She sets her expectations high; and her students respond accordingly.” Former HCPS Early Childhood Education Supervisor Ginger Eckroade said Mrs. Yeager has a “sincere concern and love for young children regardless of the way they come to her; and teaching that is intentionally designed so that every child can experience success.” Anne Heidenreich is the former Early Childhood Teacher Specialist in the county. In her visits to Mrs. Yeager’s classroom, she found a teacher who was “very motivating with the students, always seeking to challenge them and complimenting them when each child participated whether his or her answer was right or wrong.” Retired Abingdon kindergarten teacher Diana Wehage was there when Miss Baran (Mrs. Yeager) arrived. “Andrea had and continues to exhibit a very positive attitude about all aspects of school life, due to her willingness to join in with all academic and social interactions, her eagerness to learn, and her deep interest in children and early childhood education,” Mrs. Wehage said. “All of Andrea Yeager’s exuberance has continued to thrive as she has made kindergarten as the name implies, ‘a very special garden for ALL children.” Current student Nia Hill said Mrs. Yeager is “the beautifulist teacher and she never yells at us – I love her.” Young Abingdon Elementary teacher Rebecca Bagley had Mrs. Yeager as a supervising teacher while student teaching. “Without Andrea’s mentoring, I feel I could have been a ‘good’ teacher – (however) after working with her, I feel I truly have the potential to be a ‘great’ teacher,” she said. “She taught me how to be patient, understanding, and compassionate through her own modeling of teaching.” Abingdon Elementary kindergarten colleague Danielle Bowers said Mrs. Yeager has two qualities that stand out – her willingness to share a moment and her unconditional love of her students. “She makes each and every child hers and she whole-heartedly believes in them,” said Mrs. Bowers. “Andrea encourages the children to take risks and is always there to pick up the pieces.” Third year Abingdon kindergarten teacher, Laurie Machovec, says she is one lucky teacher. “I teach right across the hall from a colleague with a bag of tricks that is filled to the brim,” she said. “Andrea has helped me adjust to teaching – she has never once turned me away; she is my mentor (and) the type of teacher that I strive to become.” Over her 13 years as kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Yeager has been called on to work with both disabled and extremely gifted children in her classroom because of her ability to build self-esteem and confidence in all her students. “It is amazing how children who cannot separate from their parents or cannot complete an activity without adult assistance in September are fully performing many self help activities with ease within a few weeks under Andrea’s care,” said Mrs. Burr. “The children thrive under her care and take pride in their accomplishments.” Mrs. Yeager has supervised six student teachers and mentored three first year teachers at Abingdon Elementary. A director of her church’s Vacation Bible School, she is also active in a number of other church functions. She has earned 30 credits beyond her master’s degree.