Good week gets better for Teacher of the Year

Librarian at elementary wins award in Balto. Co.

May 06, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

This could well have been the most exciting week ever at the Lansdowne Elementary School library even if the school librarian, Sharon Grimes, hadn't been named Baltimore County Teacher of the Year yesterday.

First there was the news Monday that the Halethorpe school's 100th birthday card to Dr. Seuss will go down in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest in history - as soon as Grimes, the project's originator, finds a way to ship the 768.8-square-foot masterpiece to Guinness headquarters in England.

Today, the Lansdowne library will hold a party to launch Baltimore County's "My First Library Card" project, designed to put library cards in the hands of nearly 10,000 kindergartners and preschoolers. County Executive James T. Smith Jr. is scheduled to be on hand as children and parents board a bus from the school to the public library in Arbutus.

Also, Grimes' article about how schools can improve children's reading comprehension was published this week in School Library Journal .

Grimes acknowledged that she was relieved when Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. postponed his visit to the school, scheduled for Tuesday. She said it would have been too overwhelming.

Then again, Grimes was selected for the 17th Teacher of the Year award precisely because of the excitement she brings to the school - and the resulting love of learning she instills in children.

Principal Anne Gold referred to Grimes as "Wonder Woman" in her nomination letter. Grimes started a school science fair, Web site, weekly book clubs and an after-school computer club. For parents, she began literacy and computer workshops. She created a school computer lab. She found volunteers to read to children whose parents don't.

More than 60 percent of Lansdowne's 430 pupils qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and more than a third of their parents had their first child as teen-agers and never finished high school. Grimes, a 47-year-old mother of three, knows that poor children can learn. She knows because she was once one of them.

In her award application, Grimes recalled the blistering summer day in 1968 when a middle-age woman drove a bookmobile into her Pigtown neighborhood. Grimes was 12, and books became her source of hope.

Grimes' dream of becoming a teacher was put on hold for several years as she worked to support her family. In 1990, she became the first in her family to complete college, graduating with a bachelor's degree in English and a teaching certificate from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She taught English at Catonsville High School for seven years before moving to Charlesmont Elementary and, in 2001, Lansdowne.

Yesterday, Grimes took a spin in the 2004 Toyota Corolla that she will receive for a year as part of her award. She was handed a check for $1,000 to help her buy a laptop computer to use as she serves on the task forces that being Teacher of the Year entails.

But the greatest award, she said, is the excitement she sees daily at Lansdowne, when children take books to lunch and to recess.

"I feel passionately that not only must children be able to read," she wrote in her award application, "but also that they love to read."

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