26-year educator wins teacher of the year

Bel Air High instructor nominated by students

April 25, 2004|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Joan M. Hayden arrived for work at Bel Air High School a little bleary-eyed Friday, to cheers, cards and bouquets from her students.

Harford's new teacher of the year was up until at least 4 a.m., she said, as the award she received Thursday night began to sink in - a little.

"It was like an out-of-body experience - I had no idea. I was shocked, just shocked," said the 26-year teaching veteran, beaming. "We don't go into teaching for tiaras. This was not my intent, but it certainly is nice."

Hayden, a Baltimore native who taught in Baltimore County before moving to Harford in 1993, teaches family and consumer sciences - what used to be called home economics, but don't confuse it with simply sewing pillows and baking cookies.

There is a decorating and nutrition component to Hayden's line of work, but her classes are more career preparatory. Working with Children I and II, along with an independent study, try to ready students for careers in education, from classroom aide to instructor.

It was a group of students who nominated her. Rachel Pardew, 17, who represented her classmates Thursday, spoke of Hayden's commitment and enthusiasm during the awards dinner at The Bayou restaurant in Havre de Grace.

"I only hope that, as a teacher, I can affect lives as she has," Pardew said, her voice breaking with emotion.

"She's a wonderful person, extremely caring and loving. If you need a hug, she knows it and she'll give it to you," Pardew said after the ceremony.

The senior at Bel Air High said that, while she has wanted to be a teacher since elementary school, Hayden "helped me know 100 percent that's what I wanted to do. She taught me how to teach."

Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas said Pardew's heartfelt remarks about her teacher capture the essence of what excellent teaching is all about.

"Here's a young lady who is very poised and yet, in the end, her tears showed the intensity of emotions about the relationship with her special teacher," Haas said. "The kids get what makes a great teacher."

Haas said Hayden's enthusiasm and warmth define her style and relationships with students who are going through the sometimes-rocky teen years.

"She speaks into their lives every day. You can see it," Haas said.

Sue Garrett, who supervises Harford's family and consumer sciences program, described Hayden as "dedicated, gentle of spirit" and a fun teacher to watch in the classroom, which includes both high school students and the preschoolers they work with in advanced child-care classes.

Dennis Hayden, her husband, said watching her effect on students has been "amazing."

"We have kids - current students from this year, from last year and 10 years ago - who still call the house," he said.

And they invite her to weddings and other events.

Hayden was inspired to become a teacher in the classroom of her home economics teacher, Rose Rubin, at Towson High School in the 1970s. "She was right out of college ... very enthusiastic about her job. She made me want to be her," Hayden said.

She went on to graduate from the University of Delaware in 1978 with a bachelor's degree in home economics education and completed a master's equivalency at Loyola College.

For the next year, she'll be driving to school in the car she won for a year, working out with a personal trainer donated by a local health club and enjoying other prizes, from a laptop computer to dinners out.

And she'll be speaking at events. Minutes after the ceremony, she got her first assignment: to speak at a dinner next week - and finish her state teacher of the year application by next month.

"That's OK; I never mind speaking," she said. "You can't be a teacher for 26 years and be uncomfortable speaking."

Hayden said putting teens in touch with careers in the classroom has visible and tangible results. "Whenever you can make that connection for children, it makes it so much more pleasant," she said. "It's the spark that keeps you going."

The other spark is the students themselves.

"I feed off them," she said. "If you structure your classes so they're interactive, it's difficult not to feel that energy."

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