An impassioned speech, then tears

City Teacher of Year attempts to hold her composure but can't


Andrea Jackson held out as long as she could.

Jackson, after learning yesterday morning that she was Baltimore's Teacher of the Year during a surprise visit from schools CEO Bonnie S. Copeland, maintained her composure during an impassioned acceptance speech, one that went on for several minutes and highlighted the virtues of the teaching profession.

But appreciative words from her principal, Edward English, forced a reaction Jackson tried her best to fight. Looking at television cameras, school officials and her students, the fifth-grade teacher at Northwood Elementary broke down.

"I don't believe I'm crying on television," Jackson said.

English called Jackson one of the better teachers he has ever come across, looking her in the eye and saying, "We don't know what we'd do without you at Northwood, and we don't plan to find out," he said.

Jackson has taught in city schools for 12 years, taking a substantial break after her first three years to care for her daughter.

Since returning, Jackson, 52, has initiated a tutoring program at Northwood branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Saturdays and she coaches in a basketball league for the school's pupils. Having never coached basketball, Jackson said, she bought a book that helped her with basic positioning and plays.

The motivational part she already knew.

Northwood finished 9-1 this year.

"One of the best things was when we lost," Jackson said. "I heard one of the kids tell another kid that we might be losing on the scoreboard, but we're winners."

Jackson's class is also working on a production of The Lion King set for May 31 at the school.

It was the focus on academic, athletic and social areas, Copeland said, that separated Jackson from the other applicants.

"She exemplifies the very best qualities of a good teacher who is dedicated not just with what is inside her classroom but outside her classroom," Copeland said.

Jackson will compete against teachers from Maryland's other school systems for the state award this fall. The Maryland Teacher of the Year will then compete for the national award. Jackson also received $500 from First Mariner Bank, two tickets from Southwest Airlines and a host of complimentary meals from area restaurants.

All of the gifts were announced individually by Copeland and met with cheers from Jackson's 26 pupils, many of whom could not get enough of the attention bestowed upon the classroom. Fifteen minutes later, however, when most of the cameras disappeared, order was restored and Jackson went back to teaching the difference between the circumference of a circle and its radius.

"The children that we have in front of us today are very different from the children that teachers had in front of them 20 years ago, but they still have the same needs. They still have the same abilities," Jackson said.

Rather than take a night to celebrate, Jackson, speaking on the telephone hours later, said she was working on the next day's lesson plan.

"We've got to get back to normal," she said.

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