In Carroll County, innovative teacher gets a surprise that's worth thousands

October 17, 2003|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

With the ceremony and secrecy typical of Hollywood's flashy red-carpet awards programs, state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick surprised a veteran Carroll County science teacher yesterday with a prestigious national education award and a $25,000 check that she can use for whatever she likes.

Students erupted into cheers and Century High School's band struck up a celebratory song as a stunned Karen Luniewski, 38, made her way down from the bleachers, where she had been sitting with her class, to the podium in Century's gymnasium.

"This is an honor. I never expected this," said Luniewski, who quickly and shakily thanked the middle school principal who first hired her 15 years ago, the school system's science supervisor, her current principal at Century High and her students. "This is a great honor. I am very shocked."

Luniewski, known for bringing abstract scientific concepts to life through hands-on projects, is one of two educators in Maryland and 100 nationwide to receive this year's National Educator Awards from the California-based Milken Family Foundation. Maryland's other recipient was Calvert Middle School Principal Deborah Grinnage-Pulley in Prince Frederick.

In addition to the no-strings-attached cash prize, both educators will receive a trophy, an 18-karat-gold pin and an invitation to a four-day conference and gala dinner in Washington, where state education officials said they will be "wined and dined" by diplomats, dignitaries, business executives, Hollywood stars and perhaps even President Bush.

"Sometimes we forget that outstanding teachers and administrators make every other profession possible in our society," Grasmick said. "Usually there is no big reward for being an outstanding teacher other than the satisfaction that you made a difference in the lives of your students."

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