Instructor at Cedar Chapel Special School given 31st annual honor at banquet
By Kara Hallissey, Staff Writer
(April 12, 2018) Cedar Chapel Special School’s Karen Holland was named Worcester County Teacher of the Year during the 31st annual award’s banquet last Friday at the Clarion Hotel on 101st Street in Ocean City.
“I am very honored,” said Holland, a graduate of Stephen Decatur High School. “I have to thank my team [at Cedar Chapel.] Teamwork makes the dream work.”
Bill Gordy, president of the Worcester County Board of Education, told the 14 Teacher of the Year nominees before he opened the envelope to reveal the winner that “all of you are winners in our hearts and minds and will continue to be ambassadors for our school system.”
“We have the best educators Worcester County has to offer and we are so proud of all of you,” he said.
When Holland’s name was announced, she hugged several people before making her way to the podium as those in attendance stood and cheered.
Holland was surprised to hear she received the honor and also thanked the Worcester County Board of Education, Superintendent Lou Taylor, Cedar Chapel Principal Belinda Gulyas, in addition to her Cedar Chapel family, son and nephew.
She believes that building a positive relationship is key to awakening students’ potential, and at the core of every instructional experience is her high expectations and never-ending push to move students forward by modeling a positive perspective with the entire learning community.
Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate degree in educational leadership from the University of Phoenix and is a member of the Worcester County Education Foundation.
A video provided attendees with a glimpse into each Teacher of the Year nominee and their classrooms. In the video, Holland talked about infusing love, compassion and forgiveness in teaching.
“We are a family and a team,” Holland said. “It is more than a classroom.”
Taylor told Holland how proud he was of her honor and praised the nominees for their innovative spirits, passion to inspire and courage to face each challenge.
“Not only are we helping to shape individual futures, we are shaping the future of Worcester County,” Taylor said.
Holland earned top honors among 14 candidates who each represented a school in the county.
Seven judges were responsible for reviewing each teacher’s portfolio. Representatives from local colleges and universities in addition to a public official, current teacher and retired school supervisor were among the judges.
Holland received the highest combined score on her portfolio and interview.
She will now represent Worcester County in the state competition, going up against 24 teachers, each representing a school system in Maryland.
Once the judges choose portfolio winners, those seven finalists will move onto the interview stage and the top teacher will be unveiled in October during a gala.
“[Holland] will also have the opportunity to participate in the incredible year-long program of events that the Maryland State Department of Education offers,” said Carrie Sterrs, coordinator of the event and spokeswomen for Worcester County schools. “MSDE will hold its annual Teacher of the Year gala on Oct. 12. They will announce the state-level winner at that time.”
Worcester County earned the state title once, in 2007, when seventh grade English Language Arts teacher, Michelle Hammond, of Stephen Decatur Middle School, took home the honor.
The annual banquet honors current teachers while providing a reunion for retired teachers, who return each year to the ceremony, which began in 1988. There were 31 local sponsors this year, who provided gifts and donations to the event, winner and 14 nominated teachers.
“This is one of my favorite nights of the year because we are celebrating all of you and the incredible work you do every day,” Sterrs said.