Dedicated to career, students

Honor: An American Legion post names LaDeana Wilson its Teacher of the Year for her work in and out of the classroom.


March 31, 2004|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LaDeana Wilson says she is passionate about teaching because she truly loves helping students transform their lives.

From teaching culinary science to cheering on students during basketball games, Wilson is always ready to serve them, they say.

Still, when American Legion Post 60 in Laurel lauded her with its Teacher of the Year honor last month, Wilson was surprised.

"It's a tremendous honor," she said proudly, while showing pictures of the event. "I felt like queen for a day."

Wilson has been a teacher for 17 years -- including the past four at Howard High School in Columbia, where she teaches culinary science, early childhood development and foods and nutrition.

She began her career in North Carolina and moved to a teaching job in Charles County, Md., in 1994.

"I didn't enter this profession to get rich," she said. "It's the rapport I have with the kids and recognizing the potential in children."

Her students said they are impressed by Wilson's dedication inside and outside the classroom.

"I'm in her culinary class, and she's always talking about how much she loves it," said Emily Wilson, a junior at Howard High. "She's just really great, from cooking to playing soccer. She really helped me with my knife skills for cooking. She's just one of those people you can really talk to."

Ashley Hill, also a junior, added, "She's involved in and out of school. She was always at my basketball games, and she made these headbands for us to wear."

Jaclyn Wells, a Howard graduate, credited Wilson with helping turn her life around. Wells, who began her job as a waitress at Heartlands, a retirement home in Ellicott City, has been promoted five times during the past six months.

"I was in her foods and nutrition class and I wasn't on the right track in life, but she pushed me to go down the right track," said Wells, who now is an assistant head cook.

Mary Day, principal of Howard High, recommended Wilson for the Teacher of the Year award.

In her nominating letter, she wrote: "As a teacher for seventeen years, Ms. Wilson believes every day presents an opportunity for her to influence her students in positive ways; to train them to develop family life skills that will enable them to provide for themselves and their families in the future. Her students respect and admire her not only because of her knowledge and talents, but also her ability to teach effectively."

Wilson is among 27 teachers in the Laurel area who were honored this year by the veterans association, said Charles Lavin Jr., commander of the post.

Lavin said the post began honoring teachers in the area nine years ago and has honored a total of about 280.

"The American Legion co- incides with America and youths, and who better to honor than those who teach our youths," said Lavin.

He added that the post celebrates teachers who are good communicators, are accepted by students, principals and colleagues, and are active in and out of school.

Wilson was inspired to become a teacher by her aunt, Frances Tharpe, and her late uncle, O.G. Tharpe.

"She was my teacher in high school, and I joked with her that when I graduated from college, she would have to quit so that I could take her job," Wilson said.

Her aunt eventually accepted another position, and Wilson worked as a home economics teacher at North Wilkes High School in Hays, N.C., for six years, beginning in 1986.

"It was wonderful," she said of the experience.

Her uncle, who was assistant principal at her high school, also taught her in class.

"Well, I was always a good girl, but I knew that the bar was higher for me ... and [that if I did something wrong] they'd go home and tell my mom," she said with a laugh.

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