Teaching `is such a gift'

Teacher of the Year loves classroom best of all

May 10, 2007|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN REPORTER

Teaching has taken Robin August to courtrooms, hospitals and cabins in the woods. But August, who was named Baltimore County Teacher of the Year yesterday, said that after nearly two decades of teaching, one venue remains beyond compare.

"I can honestly say that the most exciting place teaching brings me is the classroom," August, who teaches math to sixth-graders at Deep Creek Middle School in Essex, said as she choked back tears during her acceptance speech. "When the lights come on, the bell rings and students enter the room, that's when my classroom comes alive. To spend every day engaged in learning with students is such a gift. It's a privilege I take seriously and thankfully."

To liven up lessons for her students, she has incorporated field trips, such as visits to the shark tank at the National Aquarium in Baltimore and canoe rides. One year, she took a group of children to spend a weekend in the woods to give them an appreciation of nature and one another, she said.

"The bonding that class had was remarkable," she said.

August, 39, joined the county system in 2000 as a fourth-grade teacher at Deep Creek Elementary School. Before that, she taught second through fifth grade for 10 years at Holabird Elementary School in Baltimore.

She was among six finalists who were recognized yesterday at the school system's headquarters in Towson. As the county's teacher of the year, she received a $1,000 check from Comcast to purchase a laptop and was given the keys to a 2007 Toyota Prius that will be hers for a year.

While August drove around the parking lot after the ceremony, her parents, Kip and Barbara August of Bel Air, marveled over how much she has achieved despite her struggles with Noonan syndrome, a rare congenital condition that most commonly manifests itself in heart malformations, short stature, wide-set eyes and varying cognitive disabilities.

"I'm in a state of shock. I've always known Robin was special, but it seems she's more of an accomplished adult than I realized," Barbara August said. "She endured a lot of surgeries as a child, and we moved around a lot. I think that knowing what it felt like to be different has a lot to do with her empathy for children. All that has made her better able to relate."

August was the unanimous choice of a committee of students, teachers and administrators who spent about a month reviewing dozens of nominations for the county-level contest, said Sandie Skordalos, a social studies teacher at Patapsco High School who was on the panel.

Skordalos said the committee chose August because she was, during her interview, singularly focused on her students.

"It was not `I' or `me,' it was all about the students," Skordalos said.

The other finalists were: Jason Bowman, an English teacher at Hereford High School; Phil Bressler, a social studies teacher at Eastern Technical High School in Essex; Amy Huggins, a music teacher at Pine Grove Elementary; Kara Minoglio, a third-grade teacher at Halstead Academy of Science and the Arts in Hillendale; and Kim Worth, an English teacher at Milford Mill Academy in Pikesville.

Schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston said August is the kind of teacher that former students point to as a pivotal person in their lives.

"She is constantly thinking about the child and how to better reach that child in a positive way," Hairston said.

Anissa Brown Dennis, the principal at Deep Creek Middle School, said she nominated August because of her ability to make learning meaningful.

"She can make a drill come alive," said Dennis, who was also August's principal at Deep Creek Elementary. "She makes the most difficult child want to learn and succeed. And it comes so naturally to her."

August said her passion for education is driven by the wonder of watching children develop.

"The innocence of children and their willingness to take risks is what motivates me," she said. "I aspire to be like them."

gina.davis@baltsun.com

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