Math instructor is named county's Teacher of Year

Liberty High's Giffhorn honored in his second year in Carroll schools

May 06, 2004|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,SUN STAFF

In only his second year of teaching in the county, Kevin Giffhorn has impressed enough people to be named the Carroll public schools' Teacher of the Year for 2003-2004.

The 33-year-old Liberty High School math teacher won the top honor last night at the school system's annual employee recognition ceremony, at which 63 other employees also were honored for their achievements.

"I'm extremely, extremely surprised; this is an extremely good honor," Giffhorn said after receiving a standing ovation. "I'm at a loss for words, which usually I am not. When I interviewed for the job and was told there was an opening at Liberty High School, I had no idea how lucky I was going to be."

Giffhorn was named one of eight outstanding teachers by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce last month.

The school system used the list of eight to choose its top educator. Giffhorn received a plaque and will go on to the state Teacher of the Year competition.

`Makes class lively'

For the chamber's nomination, four students and a parent described Giffhorn as "a wonderful teacher and a nice guy" who is "always there for the kids" and "extremely sharp, witty and understanding. He makes class lively and fun."

Giffhorn is known for handing out sharpened pencils to students on the first day of the school year and saying, "The worst you will be is wrong, and that's why you have an eraser. ... Everyone makes mistakes, and with an eraser you can fix them."

Liberty's principal, Florence K. Oliver, called Giffhorn intelligent and caring and wrote in her nomination that "all his students are fully engaged in his classes, have a high degree of retention, and find it relevant."

Giffhorn earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Millersville University in Pennsylvania.

He was a member of the school's Reserve Officers Training Corps and was commissioned in the Army upon graduation. After completing his service obligation, he worked in engineering sales.

But he wanted to use his math skills to "help dispel the negative views of mathematics and its real-world applications," he wrote in his essay for the county nomination.

Previous awards

He started teaching in 1995 in Carlisle, Pa., then moved in 1996 to Howard County public schools, where he was a runner-up for the Sallie Mae First Year Teacher Award.

In 1997, he was River Hill High School Teacher of the Year in Howard County. In 1999, he was nominated for the Maryland Council of Teachers of Mathematics Award and the Presidential Award for Secondary Mathematics.

This year, he was Liberty's adviser for the countywide Academic Challenge, which the school's team won. He also helped students design model rockets and mathematically predict their paths when launched.

In his essay, Giffhorn noted that of his students who took the Maryland State Assessment tests in the 2002-2003 school year, 19.7 percent scored at the advanced level, which was the highest in the county and above the state average.

Giffhorn lives in Mount Airy with his wife, Monica, and their 2-year-old daughter, Emily, who attended the awards ceremony.

The Teacher of the Year is chosen by seven judges who interview the nominees, ask them six questions, listen to a prepared speech, and read their nomination package.

Teachers are evaluated and awarded points on the depth of their responses, the content and ideas presented, and poise and delivery, said Barry Gelsinger, assistant superintendent of instruction and chairman of the selection committee.

"They were an exceptional group," Gelsinger said. "They are eight really high-caliber, quality people who are clearly committed to the kids and their achievement. We're very happy with Kevin. This is representative of the quality of the teaching in Carroll County."

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