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Teacher of the Year Blog

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Teacher of the Year Blog
Last night, Harford County celebrated five fine educators.  I have to say that I am excited about sharing a quick and easy math lesson with all of you about the impact, both known and unknown, that these teachers have and will have on students.  Think about a classroom with group of students.  The average educator interacts with between 30 and 150 students per day in their classrooms, accounting for the differences between elementary, middle and high school.  Good teachers can say at the end of the year, “Wow!  I’ve touched the lives of so many students.”  And that is admirable.  But in the case of the top five finalists, and many other teachers in HCPS, this number is multiplied.  Sometimes by 2 or 3 or even 4 or 5, because these students have been inspired.  These students have been inspired to help others feel the way their teacher has made them feel.  They have been inspired to share the things they’ve learned, and what they believe in.  That translates to over 750 people positively impacted in just one year!  And I can safely say that the impact of these teachers doesn’t just stay with the students for one year, it stays with them for a lifetime.  And who knows how many people that translates into! 
I’d like to thank those that have made this year special for me on my journey of learning.  First and foremost, thank you to HCPS and the board of education for your support in letting me stretch and grow this year.  The office of communication holds a special place in my heart – they gave me a platform to share my message (and helped me pick out a dress for the gala). Thank you to MSDE, especially Darla Strouse, for organizing the events that have become cherished memories and part of my journey of learning.  My principal, the leadership team and colleagues at C. Milton Wright have been nothing but encouraging.  The Harford county community still amazes me.  Not only are the many sponsors of this event generous, they genuinely love, appreciate and applaud teachers and the teaching profession.  Finally, my family, especially my husband Tim, has given me the push to step outside of my comfort zone and really live the experiences that I hope to share with you this evening.
I’d like to focus in on a powerful part of my learning journey this year.  As I have gotten to know each of the finalists, I’ve realized that truly outstanding educators share a love of learning.  When I first reflected last year on what makes someone a “favorite” teacher, I found myself thinking about the experience that I had as a student.  I thought about the passion that teachers have and how they make students feel.  But I’ve learned, through my experiences and reflection this year that a love of learning should be added to that list of what makes someone a “favorite” teacher.
There are many things that teachers do that make them great.  We see these teachers every day in schools all across the county.  But what these teachers, who are teacher of the year finalists believe, about themselves and their students, are what set them apart.  This year, I’ve learned what truly excellent teachers believe:
  • First, they believe in their students.  They say to students, “you can do it and I believe in you” rather than “well, you might be able to do this, but it might be hard.”  They build confidence and perseverance. 
  • Second, they believe that what they teach is important and valuable.  The time spent planning when teachers believe in their subject transforms their lessons and ultimately their students.  The passion that they bring is woven into each task, interaction and conversation.
  • Third, they believe that making a difference is worth their time.  Doing this  takes time, patience and lots of hard work.  But truly excellent teachers DO make a difference each and every day.
  • Finally, they believe that learning for themselves makes them better.  They also teach their students to love learning. 
All five finalists share these beliefs.  It is evident through both their words and their actions.  I am honored to be able to call them my colleagues.  Congratulations to each one of them for their accomplishments and the difference that they make to the students, families and community of Harford County.  And a special congratulations to Sharalyn Heinly, the Harford County Teacher of the Year!