Teacher receives national award 'I'll be grinning all year,' Loch Raven instructor says

October 01, 1997|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Anne Haddad contributed to this article.

In her 30th year of teaching, Susan Falcone received the biggest surprise of her career: a $25,000 national award for educational innovation and excellence.

"I'll be grinning all year," the Loch Raven High School family studies teacher said yesterday amid a flurry of hugs from students and teachers. "This is a wonderful anniversary present."

Falcone was named a 1997-1998 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award winner, one of four in Maryland and 150 in the nation. She's the first Baltimore County educator to win the award since Maryland began working with the foundation in 1993.

Also named a Maryland winner yesterday was Robert Foor-Hogue, a science teacher at South Carroll High School in Carroll County. State officials plan to surprise two more educators today with the award, one on the Eastern Shore and the other in the Washington suburbs.

In keeping with the foundation's tradition, the awards are cloaked in secrecy. Winners typically don't know they have been nominated until they're surprised with an award.

At Loch Raven High yesterday, state school Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and Baltimore County schools Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione -- trailed by a flock of educators, television cameras and reporters -- marched into Falcone's third-floor classroom and interrupted her sixth-period child-development class to make the announcement.

As the classroom filled with on-lookers, Grasmick gave Falcone a hug, introduced herself to the students and explained how "friends from California" had asked her to find an outstanding teacher who can be a model to her peers and her pupils.

With the astonished students looking on, Grasmick and Marchione handed Falcone, 55, two bouquets of mixed flowers, five "Congratulations" balloons and an oversized check for $25,000. (She won't receive the actual check until June, when she attends a national educational forum sponsored by the foundation in Beverly Hills, Calif.)

An assistant principal announced the award over the school's intercom system, prompting a schoolwide ovation.

"It's very exciting to be able to come into a school and surprise a teacher like this," Grasmick said. "She is just such an outstanding teacher and really deserving of this award."

Falcone -- who last year was Baltimore County's teacher of the year and a finalist in the Maryland teacher of the year competition -- was stunned and speechless. Thirty minutes after being surprised, her face remained flushed with excitement.

"I am undone. I do not know what to say," she said. "I absolutely love teaching. I'm in my 30th year and I have no desire to quit."

Falcone was hailed by colleagues and students for her work in child-development classes, preparation of students for the workplace and commitment to school activities.

"I wasn't that interested in going into teaching until I took a class with Ms. Falcone," said senior Danielle Botsch, 17. "She's taught me so much about parenting, about working with kids and about her love for teaching."

Falcone is chairwoman of Loch Raven's family studies department. She also teaches her students about raising children, supervises students in internships in the community and oversees the school's service learning program -- ensuring that all students complete the community service required for graduation.

At South Carroll High yesterday, everyone knew that something big, really big, would happen at a pep rally the principal called for the last period.

Grasmick was the surprise guest. After students had cheered their athletic teams, she came out to announce one more reason to be proud: One of their teachers had won $25,000 for dedicated, innovative work.

But before she announced the name, everyone knew who it was. Several students began chanting: "Foor-Hogue, Foor-Hogue, Foor-Hogue!"

This is a big year for Foor-Hogue. In addition the Milken award, he is one of seven finalists for Maryland State Teacher of the Year. The winner will be announced Friday.

Foor-Hogue is well known in Carroll County for having stu- dents in his science research class do real science, not just isolated school projects. The trout fingerlings they get in the fall and raise all year are released into Morgan Run and other tributaries that are being restored to the cold, oxygen-rich condition needed for survival.

The Milken awards are given annually by a foundation begun by Michael R. Milken, the former junk-bond king who pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 1990 in an insider-trading scandal. He served almost two years in prison and paid more than $1 billion in fines.

Today, Milken and the foundation are active in education and cancer research. Educators in 35 states will receive $3.75 million in awards this year. Since the educator awards program began in 1985, the foundation has handed out more than $29 million -- including $600,000 to two dozen Maryland winners.

The foundation sets criteria for the awards but leaves it to state education departments to pick their state's four winners. The program alternates each year between recognizing elementary and secondary educators.

Winners have used their $25,000, no-strings-attached award for many purposes, the foundation says. Some buy computer equipment for their schools, while others have gone on vacation or paid for their children's college education.

Falcone said yesterday she will use at least some of it to take more graduate classes in family studies.

"That just shows what kind of a person she is," said Loch Raven Principal Keith Harmeyer. "It's not just Susan who wins. All of the future Loch Raven students are going to benefit from her work."

Pub Date: 10/01/97

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