Students recently nominated nearly 200 teachers from schools across Carroll County to vie for the district's Teacher of the Year honors. From that group, the county Chamber of Commerce selected eight educators - four high school, two middle school and two elementary school teachers - to receive its Outstanding Teacher award.
The recipients advance to the countywide Teacher of the Year competition, which is judged by school officials. The Carroll Teacher of the Year - expected to be announced next month - will advance to the statewide level.
This year's Outstanding Teacher winners are:
Jennifer L. Cole
As an English teacher at Francis Scott Key High School in Union Bridge, Jennifer L. Cole said she strives to teach students how to be critical readers.
"I'm trying to prepare them to be active citizens in the world," said Cole, who has been teaching in Carroll County for 10 years. "I'm preparing them to be able to apply those skills" to their lives.
Cole serves on the school system's grammar instruction committee. She earned a bachelor's degree from St. Mary's College and has a master's equivalent in education from McDaniel College.
Kenneth B. Fischer
When Kenneth B. Fischer isn't teaching science at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, he may be working as a paramedic for the Mount Airy Fire Co. or playing guitar and singing with his acoustic band, 3 Hour Drive.
Fischer - who coaches the school's cross country and outdoor track teams - has been teaching in Carroll since graduating from McDaniel College in 2000.
"I believe in the three R's - rigor, relevance and relationships," he said. Fischer said he challenges students with rigorous coursework. He said he tries to make lessons relevant by connecting them to hot topics or community problems, and he aims to nurture relationships with each student.
Gary A. Foote
When it comes to helping students make the connection to the real world, physics teacher Gary A. Foote said he has it easy.
"I have ninth-graders who are working on getting their drivers' licenses, or soon will be," said Foote, who has been teaching since graduating from Whittenberg University in Ohio in 1982. "The driver's manual is all physics. It's all practical matters."
He began his education career as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching science and math in Kenya from 1982 to 1986. Foote then taught at a high school in the Bronx, N.Y., until joining South Carroll High School in 1991.
He has a master's degree in education from the Teachers College of Columbia University and a master's degree in chemistry from City College in New York.
Greta A. Gilmore
Reading specialist Greta A. Gilmore, who has been teaching in Carroll since 1997, said she wants her students to not only learn to enjoy a good book, but also to get the most out of life.
"I don't think I'm just teaching them skills to read," said Gilmore, who has taught reading for 24 years. "But in reading different stories, they are learning about themselves and how the world works."
In 2001, she became a reading and language arts specialist at Sykesville Middle, where she is chairwoman of the school improvement team. She earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in education from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.
Teresa M. Greenberg
Piney Ridge Elementary's art teacher, Teresa Greenberg, wants her students to connect art to what's happening in their lives.
"I want them to see art not just as something they do in my class, but as a way to see the world, appreciate the world and express themselves," said Greenberg, who has attended the Philadelphia College of Art, Towson University and Loyola College.
She has taught art in Carroll and Baltimore counties for 26 years.
Lisa M. Kelly
To help seventh-graders at North Carroll Middle in Hampstead relate math to their lives, Lisa M. Kelly makes her lessons tangible.
"We talk about separating our Halloween candy into piles of exactly the same size and type of candy when learning greatest common factor," she said.
Kelly has taught math for 14 years, 11 spent in Carroll. She earned a bachelor's degree from Towson University and has continued her education at McDaniel College, the University of Maryland and Carroll Community College.
Gary A. LeGates
Gary A. LeGates, who has been blind since birth, said he pushes his students to ignore their limitations and push on toward success.
"I try to show them that there's no such thing as a person who can't do something," said LeGates, who has taught Latin, French and Greek in the same Westminster High classroom his entire 30 years in education.
"I say if I can do it and I'm a blind guy, then I know you can do it," said LeGates, who earned a bachelor's degrees in Latin, French and education from what is now McDaniel College and a master's degree in the classics from Pennsylvania State University.
Manchester Elementary School's Dolly Mersinger hopes to teach her fourth-graders to recognize their own talents.
"I hope they feel comfortable taking academic risks and that they will push and try something harder than they would have before," said Mersinger, who has taught at Manchester since 1992.
A graduate of the former Mount St. Agnes College in Baltimore, Mersinger has been teaching for 27 years, including 13 years in Baltimore.
"I find it very rewarding to see the boys and girls independently use the skills that we've developed in the classroom," she said.