Harford Teacher of the Year finalists named

Ten public school educators vie for title, which will be awarded Thursday

April 22, 2007|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,special to the sun

Ten educators have been selected as finalists for the 2007-08 Harford County public schools Teacher of the Year award. The teachers will be honored during the 13th annual Teacher of the Year banquet and program Thursday at the Bayou Restaurant.

The winner, who will go on to compete for the statewide award, will receive gifts that include the use of a new car, a laptop computer, a watch, and a commemorative clock. All of the finalists will receive $1,000, certificates from participating restaurants and several other awards.

A brief look at each finalist:

Sondra Cawthorne

After 33 years as a teacher, Cawthorne found her niche teaching ninth- and 10th-grade English at the Alternative Education Center in Aberdeen.

"If my students need me to just listen to them, then that's what I do," said Cawthorne, who is in her second year at the school. "Maybe nouns and verbs on that day are not what they need."

Jeana Essery

As a sixth-grade science teacher at Fallston Middle, Essery tries to apply science in real-life ways, she said. When she taught a lesson on oceanography, Essery had her students track sailors participating in the Volvo Ocean Race. Then when the boats docked in Baltimore, she took her class to meet some of the sailors.

"Learning has to be fun and apply to real life," said Essery, who has been teaching for 17 years, including 13 in county schools. "There is nothing like a moment when a student says, `I love science.'"

Kathleen Garafola

After working as an executive assistant for the state government for 17 years, Garafola became a teacher. After nine years in the profession, the second-grade teacher at North Bend Elementary believes that a teacher can reach every child, she said.

"When a child gets it or makes progress, it's like gold falling from the sky for me," Garafola said.

Brian Gunter

As a ninth- and 10th-grade algebra teacher at C. Milton Wright High, Gunter tries to create an inviting and positive atmosphere for his students, he said.

"A lot of the time students come to high school scared," said Gunter, who has been teaching for nine years. "I try to help them relax so they can learn. I like to be able to connect with my students and influence who they become."

Sharalyn Heinly

After 23 years of teaching, Heinly tries to focus on the child and not the subject, she said.

"As teachers, we should teach children and use our subject as the medium, instead of just teaching the subject alone," said Heinly, who teaches seventh-grade math at North Harford Middle.

"I teach because I love it," she said. "I try to do the best I can."

Angela Jones

As a music and chorus teacher, Jones has spent her 10-year career at North Harford Middle. Jones works with more than 300 students, teaching them to express themselves through music, she said.

"I never give up on a student," Jones said. "So many teachers look at their students as just another child in their class. I try to show them that I care about them."

Lisa Keller

After 17 years in the field, Keller said she believes that teaching is the highest privilege a person can have. All children can learn, said Keller, who teaches fourth grade at Fountain Green Elementary.

"As a teacher it is my job to find the best way to teach the children in my class," Keller said. "Then I pass the baton to the teacher in the next grade. It's a big responsibility, but I am so proud of my profession."

Rebekah McCord

In her sixth year of teaching, McCord, who works as a ninth-grade reading and English teacher at Joppatowne High, focuses her attention on helping low-level readers, she said.

"My goal is to get students excited about reading so they can find their own answers in life," she said.

Christine Roland

As a teacher of 10th-grade biology and 11th- and 12th-grade forensic science at Edgewood High, Roland tries to teach in a nontraditional manner, she said. She said her teaching philosophy is "Whatever it takes."

"Whatever I have to do to get students excited about learning - that is what I am going to do."

Last year she had her biology students make a movie in which they had to re-enact a chemical reaction, she said.

"Often, by the time a student gets to me, they no longer enjoy science," she said. "So I want to teach them to have fun again."

Andrea Yeager

As a kindergarten teacher at Abingdon Elementary for the past 13 years, Yeager said she believes she is there to educate the children in academics as well as character.

"I am gentle with my students," she said. "I don't yell. I have other things that I do that are more effective."

For Yeager, the reward is when former students come back to visit her. One former student visited and told Yeager of her plans to become a teacher.

"I asked her why, and she looked at me and said, `Don't you know? ... It's because of you,'" she said.

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