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Teacher of the Year Blog

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Teacher of the Year Blog
I blinked and a year has flown by.  It feels like yesterday that I was chatting with the other five finalists for HCPS Teacher of the Year (TOY) guessing at what HCPS would come up with since our banquet was, “put on hold” due to COVID. Given the world circumstances, those weeks flew by because there were so many other uncertainties to focus our attention to.  Jillian Lader and Christina Paquette, along with several sponsors and team members were able to pull off the first HCPS Live Teams event.  I am still surprised that I was named as TOY! I am constantly in awe of my colleagues (some that I don’t even know personally but have befriended on my teacher Twitter and Instagram), and I know that there are several educators in HCPS that deserve the title of TOY. I have been absolutely honored to represent them this year.

My role as TOY this year was unlike any other.  I remember in my interview for this position talking about how I would be excited to visit classrooms and other grade levels, to travel to meet teachers in other counties, and to work with graduating seniors who are interested in teaching.  Typically, that would be part of my role.  However, as we all know, COVID-19 had other plans.  While I was not able to do any of the ‘in-person’ parts of this role, I was exposed to many others.  I was able to serve on several committees and focus groups to help make important decisions about what returning to school would look like.  I never knew the amount of time and work that went into making decisions like this prior to becoming TOY.  This role has given me a whole new understanding and the utmost respect for what people at central office do each day and the weight that they carry in making these decisions that affect so many people.  I was honored to work with the Office of Communications and Family Outreach to participate and plan Parent Academies for HCPS, to write for INSPIRE Magazine for the Harford County Education Foundation, and to help them lead focus groups for returning to in-person learning.  The role of TOY has allowed me to learn more about North Star, to see how our community contributes to HCPS in so many ways such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Harford County Chamber of Commerce, I have witnessed the work that goes into implementing, supporting, and changing curricula, and the list goes on.  I am truly blessed to have had these opportunities.

I cannot write this blog without saying my favorite part of becoming TOY.  That would be getting to meet and work with the QuaranTeam 5: Jennifer Knoll, Karen Gonzalez, Erinn Ragan, and Melissa VanRuiten.  I did not know these extraordinary educators until becoming a finalist.  Working with them has been an award in and of itself.  Together we reached out to teachers, parents, and students to address mental health.  We presented to HCPS leadership about employee morale, promoted morale by creating weekly holiday trivia giveaways, co-created a ‘Cameras Up Success Up’ initiative, led professional developments for new and tenured teachers, presented to the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils about student voice, and made lots and lots of videos (many thanks to Jay Berends for all the help and assistance with the videos)!  I like to think that we made a difference this year, even if it was not to all of HCPS; we made a difference to each other.  We supported one another in so many ways, my favorite example is the 9pm “Save Beth” Teams meeting they organized to help me when I was in a pinch early this year.  These four ladies may not have had the title of Teacher of the Year, but they should absolutely be recognized for all the hard work they have done this year.  Being a finalist is a job itself!

While my time as HCPS TOY is ending, I will continue to serve in the role of a Maryland TOY.  Now that COVID restrictions are lightening up we have our first retreat scheduled at North Bay in Cecil County!  I am very excited to meet, in-person, the other TOY’s from around the state.  We have already worked together with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Northup Grumman to learn how to implement STEM into our classrooms.  And just yesterday we participated in a conference with the Teachers of Promise to mentor future educators.  I am excited to continue my journey with these inspiring educators from around our state.
The QuaranTeam5 had the opportunity to meet with next year’s top 5 last week.  It was exciting getting to know the next round of teachers and to know that they have so much ahead of them to look forward to.  I am thrilled that we will have the opportunity to work together next year and wish them all the best of luck in their new roles.

Thank you to HCPS for allowing me the honor to serve a school system that has served me since Kindergarten at North Bend Elementary.  This is definitely not a goodbye, just a, “See ya around!”