County teachers receive honors

Instructors at Old Mill, St. Martin's selected for annual designation

Public, private school winners

April 12, 2002|By Stephen Kiehl | Stephen Kiehl,SUN STAFF

From the time she was a child and watched her father change the lives of his high school science students, Mattie Procaccini wanted nothing more than to be a teacher.

"He was a sensitive man," she said of her father, who died in January, "who humbly but eloquently conveyed, through both his words and deeds, the sanctity of his profession and the dignity of all those he taught."

Procaccini, 59, took those lessons and applied them to her teaching career, largely spent at Old Mill High School in Millersville.

Last night, her 22 years in Anne Arundel schools were rewarded with the county's Public Schools Teacher of the Year award, presented at a banquet at the Annapolis Radisson.

Also last night, William Weber of St. Martin's Lutheran School in Annapolis was named the county's Private Schools Teacher of the Year.

Each will receive $1,000 from Comcast. Procaccini will also receive $500 from the school system.

Procaccini's English classes are "like a Broadway show," with costumes, props, artwork and music, her department chairman, Sean Swanson, wrote in a recommendation letter.

"In fact, other teachers have even been known to stop outside Mrs. Procaccini's classroom just to watch her teach," Swanson wrote. "Mattie is the best teacher I have ever seen."

Two of Procaccini's recent students, Audrey Chan and Michael Margolis, wrote to the selection committee, "She taught us all so much, but above all the beauty of poetry, the power of figurative language, the timelessness of Shakespeare, and the persuasiveness of the written word."

Procaccini's colleagues are just as appreciative. She volunteers her time to meet with new teachers, help them plan lessons and survive their first years at Old Mill. She also shares her lesson plans and teaching materials, and is a curriculum writer and staff development instructor for the county. She never misses a birthday and occasionally shows up on the doorsteps of ill colleagues with her delicious chicken soup, Swanson said.

"She is an amazing teacher because what she says, she believes and what she teaches is not from a book but part of who she is," said Michael Walsh, who was in Procaccini's English class in the late 1980s and is now a spokesman for the school system.

Weber, the private-school winner, has taught middle school math for eight years at St. Martin's, where he is also athletic director. He started the school's interscholastic sports program and organizes an awards dinner every year to recognize all the students who participate.

"I feel that my greatest contribution to education is my ability to listen," Weber wrote in his application for the award. "Listening to middle school-age children is very crucial. The children have many issues to deal with every day, and it takes a patient person to work through many of these situations."

Doris Johnson, a fourth-grade teacher at Annapolis Area Christian School, was the other finalist for the private school award. Sandra Balderson, a music teacher at Broadneck High School, and Susan Brown, a science teacher at Central Middle School in Edgewater, were the other public school finalists.

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