Jodi Grosser-Gonzalez, She's treated students' sunstroke in Mexico and insect bites in Costa Rica. She's attended countless proms and raised money for cheerleading uniforms.
But when her mother asked what she did to deserve the Baltimore County Teacher of the Year award, Jodi Grosser-Gonzalez replied: "Mom, all I did was love my kids."
Grosser-Gonzalez, the world language department chair at New Town High School, relayed the story through tears yesterday as she accepted the award before an audience of colleagues, school district officials and school board members.
"It boils down to the thing I never did," she said. "I never once stopped caring."
In announcing Grosser-Gonzalez as the county's 18th Teacher of the Year, Deputy Superintendent Christine M. Johns commended her use of technology and current events in the classroom and her commitment to live in the community where she teaches, to be a part of her students' lives outside of the classroom.
Johns also praised the runner-up for the award, Homeretta Ayala, the library media specialist at Fullerton Elementary School.
Grosser-Gonzalez, who will compete for Maryland Teacher of the Year, received $1,000 from Comcast toward the purchase of a laptop and from Jerry's Toyota the use of a 2005 Corolla for a year. At the wheel of the shiny white car for the first time, she immediately turned the radio to a Spanish-language station and danced to the salsa music.
Grosser-Gonzalez, 37 and the mother of a 3-year-old boy, grew up in a small town in Michigan and went to Grand Valley State University as an accounting major. After taking an entry-level English class, she worked as an English tutor, deciding she liked it so much that she changed her major to English with plans to become an English teacher.
She taught English at a community college in Michigan for a year after graduation, then moved to Maryland for a fresh start after a broken engagement. She couldn't find a school in need of an English teacher but several were hiring Spanish teachers.
Fortunately for her, Spanish had been her minor. She traveled to Mexico that summer of 1993 to brush up on her skills and began teaching Spanish that fall at Randallstown High School. She stayed at the school for 10 years, leading the cheerleading team to its first county championship and becoming department chair in 1998.
She transferred to nearby New Town High School when it opened in 2003.
Grosser-Gonzalez had some of the school district's top administrators crying yesterday as she talked about why she loves what she does.
"I work in a profession I call my passion," she said. "I work with colleagues I call my friends. I work with leaders I call my heroes. I work with kids I call my babies. There is no other job on this planet that can make me feel that alive."