`A' for teacher

Phelps Luck Elementary reading instructor named Howard County Teacher of the Year

May 06, 2007|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,Sun reporter

It comes as no surprise that Patricia Phillips, a reading specialist at Phelps Luck Elementary, was so focused on a lesson with three second-graders that she did not immediately notice her husband, David, and the dozen or so officials enter the classroom.

After spotting Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin, County Council Chairman Calvin Ball and school board Chairman Diane Mikulis in the room Friday, it began to sink in.

A nervous smile crept onto her face. They were there to tell her she had been chosen Howard County's 2007 Teacher of the Year.

"I'm really nervous," said the 31-year educator, who mainly works with kindergarten through fourth grade. "I didn't finish my lesson."

Phillips, 53, won the distinction after completing a multilayered application process that began with a nomination from a committee of Phelps Luck co-workers. Phillips will represent the county at the state level with hopes of making it to the national Teacher of the Year competition.

"I'm taking it all in," said Phillips as she cradled a bouquet of flowers presented to her. She also received $4,000. "I'm excited. I'm honored to be chosen by my colleagues. I'm so honored to be part of this school system."

Cousin said the distinction is one of the most prestigious awards presented to teachers throughout the year.

"This represents the high quality of teachers in the system," Cousin said. "We only have one."

Phillips has worked at Phelps Luck since 2000. Before that, she was a first-grade teacher at Manor Woods Elementary for five years and a kindergarten teacher at West Friendship Elementary for a year.

She started her career in 1976 as a kindergarten teacher at Northfield Elementary.

"Walking into that [Northfield Elementary] classroom for the first time I said, `This is my home,'" Phillips recalled. "I have loved teaching ever since."

Phillips got the teaching bug as a student at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County. There, she began to tutor, and she loved working with the children. She said she would incorporate puppets into reading lessons to pique the students' interest.

"I was eager," she said. "I was excited. I wanted to go back" and tutor.

That enthusiasm followed her throughout her undergraduate work at what was then Towson State College when she began to student-teach.

Pam Akers, principal of Phelps Luck who has worked with Phillips for three years, said Phillips puts a lot of heart into teaching.

"That heart and caring motivates the students," Akers said. "She is extremely conscientious and hard-working. She takes student achievement seriously. If something is not working, she looks in her bag of tricks for something else that works."

Jacob Myrick, an 8-year-old second-grader gushed about Phillips while reading a nomination letter he wrote. "I think Mrs. Phillips is the most worthy to be the best teacher," Jacob said. "She always picks fun activities. She lets us play games."

Classmate Kelin Hernandez, 8, agreed.

"She is the best teacher I've ever had," Kelin said. "She helps me when I make a mistake."

Rederick Redd, an 8-year-old second-grader, said Phillips is the best teacher in the state. "She helps me to sound out the words I get stuck on," he said.

Phillips' husband of 29 years, David, said that the students motivate his wife.

"All of our conversations come back to teaching," he said. "Teaching is a 24/7 job. I liken it to the police. It's really a unique type of person who can teach, especially after 31 years. It's incredible."

It took some maneuvering to surprise Phillips.

She was supposed to attend an education conference Friday, but Akers and other administrators told her she needed to skip the conference to complete interviews for the award.

"When I think of the number of outstanding teachers in Howard County, I was thrilled." Akers said." I think she is an outstanding example to represent the many outstanding teachers in Howard County. We are very proud of her and happy for her."

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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