Dulaney High teacher wins $25,000 honor

18-year veteran selected for national award

October 28, 2005|By LIZ F. KAY .. | LIZ F. KAY ..,SUN REPORTER

Kelly Smith's SAT prep course at Dulaney High School was cut short yesterday so her class could go to the auditorium for an assembly. The language she used to express her shock upon learning she'd won $25,000 and a national teaching award would have fit nicely on her students' vocabulary lists.

"I started to swoon," she said later.

"That's an English-teacher word," said Elaine Berry, a school system curriculum coordinator, who was standing nearby.

Local and state officials used the words "passionate" and "energetic" to praise Smith, who serves as the English Department chairwoman at Dulaney High. She will receive $25,000 from the Milken Family Foundation as part of its National Educator Awards. The surprise announcement came at an assembly yesterday morning at which elected officials, education leaders and foundation representatives, including actor and director Robert Townsend, lauded the effect of good teachers.

Organizers of the event played to the award's nickname as the "Oscars of Education." Foundation board Chairman Lowell Milken described the prize before asking for an envelope with the winner's name inside. Milken co-founded the organization in 1982 with his brother, Michael, a junk bond trader who later went to prison for securities fraud.

The foundation recognizes up to 100 principals and instructors across the country each year with the cash prize, which the winners can use however they wish. Winners will receive the money at an annual conference in Washington next year. A second Maryland winner is expected to be named.

Smith remained at the side of the Dulaney High School auditorium after hearing her name, and had to be prodded to go to the front for congratulations and photographs with an enormous $25,000 check.

The 40-year-old teacher told the crowd that she is inspired by her understanding that teenagers face a lot of pressures.

"I always try to make a lesson end on a good note," she said, so they can enter the day in a good way. "Being 16 and 17 is actually pretty difficult. I'm so happy I'm not there right now."

Mitko Georgiev, a 16-year-old junior, is taking Smith's SAT prep class this year and was in her freshman English class as well. "You're tired in the morning, and she basically just brings up your spirit," he said.

Since arriving at Dulaney, Smith has created a summer reading program and helped set up programs to help mid-range students succeed as well as coordinated SAT preparation before and during school and on weekends. In the classroom, she has students write and act in their own plays.

The 18-year veteran also mentors other teachers, which made her a good candidate in the eyes of state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick. "We want a person who can communicate that passion for other teachers and the community," she said.


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