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Teacher of the Year to be crowned on Friday

Clarion Resort Hotel hosts 31st annual banquet; 14 instructors were nominated

By Kara Hallissey, Staff Writer

(April 5, 2018) The Worcester County Teacher of the Year will be unveiled Friday during the 31st annual banquet inside the crystal ballroom at the Clarion Resort Hotel on 101st Street in Ocean City.

“Each Teacher of the Year [program] is a special occasion because it allows our entire school system to come together and honor the incredible work our educators do every day,” said Carrie Sterrs, coordinator of the event and spokesperson for Worcester County schools.

Teachers are nominated each year through a ballot process by a student, parent, colleague, administrator or community member.

“We kick off nominations during American Education Week every November, and anyone is invited to nominate a teacher of their choosing,” Sterrs said.

The 14 candidates represent each school in the county and 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 this year.

“Both the portfolio and the questions asked during the interview process are crafted based on the Worcester County and Maryland State Teacher of the Year applications,” Sterrs said.

The educator who receives the highest combined score on their portfolios and interviews wins the Worcester County Teacher of the Year title and advances to the state competition.

“The county Teacher of the Year becomes an ambassador representing all of the outstanding teachers of Worcester County,” Sterrs said. “The winner will represent Worcester County in the state level Teacher of the Year program as well as be a keynote speaker at a number of county events.”

After county awards are presented, the 24 teachers, representing each of the school systems in Maryland, will have their portfolios judged and the field is narrowed down to seven finalists.

Next, interviews will be conducted in the competition for Maryland Teacher of the Year and the top teacher will be unveiled in October during a gala.

“[Worcester County Teacher of the Year] will also have the opportunity to participate in the incredible year-long program of events that the Maryland State Department of Education offers,” Sterrs said. “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.

Last year, Worcester Technical High School precalculus and dual enrollment mathematics teacher, Julia Hill, was named Worcester County Teacher of the Year. Following tradition, she will be the keynote speaker at the banquet on Friday.

“We are proud to continue our year-long celebration that ‘We Are Worcester,’” Sterrs said.

“Being a part of our Worcester County team is a point of pride that we all share, and this banquet is a great opportunity to celebrate that pride.”

The banquet honors current teachers while also providing a reunion for retired teachers, who return each year to the ceremony, which began in 1988. There are 31 local sponsors this year, who provide gifts and donations to the event, winner and 14 nominated teachers.

“I am overwhelmed by the level of generosity and support our sponsors show for this recognition program each year. It is truly remarkable,” Sterrs said.

The 2018 Worcester County Teacher of the Year candidates are:

  • Brian Cook, Pocomoke Middle School: Cook earned a bachelor of arts degree in communication from Bethany College in West Virginia, in addition to master’s and doctorate degrees in educational leadership from Salisbury University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

Cook is in his 10th year of teaching sixth grade English Language Arts at Pocomoke Middle School.

He believes building positive teacher-student-parent relationships is instrumental for students to be successful and strives to build an innovative environment with authentic learning opportunities.

He serves as a Salisbury University adjunct professor and coaches cross country at Pocomoke High School in addition to being a Young Authors’ contest chairperson, a 100-Home Visit advocate, and organizer for the EduDrone afterschool program.

  • Caitlin Evans, Worcester Technical High School: Evans is a graduate of Pocomoke High School and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore where she earned her bachelor of science degree in hotel and restaurant management.

Evans is in her sixth year of teaching the hospitality and tourism management program as well as the baking and pastry program at Worcester Technical High School.

She believes that building personal relationships and fostering a culture of learning is key to student successes.

Evans serves on multiple boards for local colleges and universities, spearheads various fundraisers and community outreach initiatives at Worcester Technical High School and is a local business owner.

  • Kristie Fogle, Ocean City Elementary School: Fogle earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Salisbury University and a master’s degree in elementary reading and literacy from Walden University after graduating from Stephen Decatur High School.

Fogle has been teaching since 2009 and is currently a second grade teacher at Ocean City Elementary. She believes high expectations, routines and communication are key to a successful classroom, however, love, respect and trust help students soar.

Fogle is a mentor to new teachers to the county, is a member of her school improvement teach and the early literacy committee.

  • Karen Holland, Cedar Chapel Special School: Holland attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Wilmington University, earning a bachelor of science degree in special education and an education in elementary school counseling master’s degree after graduating from Stephen Decatur High School.

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.

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.

  • Rebecca Johnson, Showell Elementary School: Johnson has an education certification from Virginia Wesleyan College and a reading literacy master’s degree from Wilmington University.

Teaching for 21 years, 17 in Worcester County, she has been a third grade teacher for the majority of her career.

Johnson believes building student and teacher relationships are the most important part of teaching. It is her hope by building strong and positive relationships, her students will be motivated and engaged with their learning every day.

At Showell Elementary, Johnson is a writer’s workshop lead teacher and teacher mentor.

  • Michele Kosin, Snow Hill High School: Kosin has a bachelor of science degree from the University of Maryland, a master’s in technology education and a post-baccalaureate in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) secondary education from California University.

In her eighth year at Snow Hill High School, Kosin teaches physics and engineering technology in addition to facilitating the engineering club. Kosin enjoys creating a stimulating and interactive learning environment.

Kosin is the co-author of the advanced design applications and engineering design curriculum, which is currently taught in 17 states.

As a participant in 29 STEM community outreach programs, she has received 18 STEM grants and won the prestigious Woodie Flowers FIRST Robotics award.

  • Theresa Olenchick, Pocomoke Elementary School: Olenchick has bachelor of science degrees in early childhood and elementary education from Salisbury University in addition to a master’s degree in English speakers of other languages from Concordia University.

In her eighth year of teaching, Olenchick is currently a kindergarten teacher at Pocomoke Elementary School.

Olenchick believes that a child’s first school experience is crucial in igniting a lifelong passion for learning and makes sure to help foster a positive classroom community with engaging, student-centered lessons.

In addition, Olenchick mentor’s new teachers and student interns in addition to participating as a teacher leader within the school improvement team, and facilitates afterschool student academy sessions.

  • Jaimie Ridgely, Stephen Decatur Middle School: Ridgely, a national board-certified teacher in her 16th year, teaches a developmental reading and a writing-intensive literacy enrichment course at Stephen Decatur Middle School.

Ridgely earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education, a master’s in curriculum and instruction and is currently pursuing her doctorate in literacy at Salisbury University.

She encourages self-efficacy and fosters a love of literacy in addition to adding humor, community, authenticity and joy to her student-centered classroom.

Ridgely coaches students through writing and oratorical contests locally, regionally, and nationally. In addition, she mentors new teachers, is an Eastern Shore writing project teacher consultant and writing-camp instructor. This June, she’ll present her research on writing in England.

  • Damien Sanzotti, Berlin Intermediate School: Sanzotti has a bachelor of arts degree in physical education with a minor in psychology from Bethany College. Currently, he is finishing up his master’s degree in school counseling and will graduate in May from Wilmington University.

In his tenth year at Berlin Intermediate School, Sanzotti teaches physical education to fourth, fifth and sixth graders.

Sanzotti is passionate about educating and encouraging his students to live a healthy lifestyle, and promoting lifelong physical activities that interest each student.

He is a mentor to university interns, a health and wellness coordinator for Berlin Intermediate School, a member of the physical education curriculum revision team, a sergeant with the Ocean City Beach Patrol, and a coach for the Ocean Pines swim team.

  • Beth Shockley-Lynch, Snow Hill Elementary School: Shockley-Lynch graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science degree in education from Elon University and summa cum laude with a master’s of education in curriculum, instruction and assessment from Walden University. She is also a graduate of Snow Hill High School.

Shockley-Lynch has been teaching for 29 years and believes students are more likely to make connections to abstract concepts when given the opportunity to experience hands-on learning.

She is a mentor teacher for university interns and the co-site coordinator for Salisbury University. Shockley-Lynch is also the current president of the Worcester County Teachers Association.

  • Donna Socha, Buckingham Elementary School: Socha has a bachelor of arts degree from Elon College in addition to a bachelor of science in early childhood education and a master’s of science in reading from Longwood College.

Teaching for 30 years, 18 in Worcester County, she is currently a second grade teacher at Buckingham Elementary School.

She believes if children are actively engaged in a lesson, they will be motivated to learn. Her positive attitude and active learning environment, coupled with high expectations, creates a successful environment.

Socha is a member of the math team, TCI lead teacher, green school committee and faculty council.

  • Joseph Stigler, Stephen Decatur High School: Stigler has taught mathematics for seven years at Stephen Decatur High School after earning a bachelor of science degree in mathematics from Salisbury University and a master’s of science in educational leadership from Towson University. Stigler is also a graduate of Stephen Decatur High School.

He strives to create a positive learning environment with high expectations and levels of engagement for all students.

Stigler is the varsity cross country and track coach at Stephen Decatur High School, a member of the Worcester County Education Advisory Committee, Worcester County Professional Development Task Force and Maryland State Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field Committee.

  • Emily Taylor, Snow Hill Middle School: Taylor has taught fifth grade at Snow Hill Middle School for the past six years after earning her bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Towson University.

Currently, she is finishing up her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and will graduate in May from Salisbury University. She is also a Stephen Decatur High School graduate.

Taylor strives to create an environment that fosters learning through collaboration and real-world projects and believes that the foundation of a successful classroom relies on positive student relationships.

She serves on the Worcester County Public Schools ELA committee, is a leader for her school improvement team, a new teacher mentor, and Salisbury University mentor teacher.

  • Alexandra Tobiassen, Pocomoke High School: Tobiassen earned a bachelor of fine arts in visual arts with a printmaking focus from Frostburg State University and a master’s degree in school leadership from Salisbury University after graduating from Pocomoke High School.

Tobiassen has taught many levels of art classes throughout her nine years in Worcester County, and follows the career path of her father, William Buchanan, a former chair of the art department at Pocomoke High School.

She embraces creativity, self-expression and personal choice in her classroom.

Tobiassen also supports many other aspects of the school community by coaching, leading professional development, teaching after school, organizing wellness initiatives and planning graduation.