10 vying for Teacher of the Year

April 20, 2008|By Cassandra A. Fortin | Cassandra A. Fortin,Special to The Sun

A former private investigator, accountant and a sign language instructor are among the 10 finalists for Harford County Teacher of the Year.

The finalists who were selected by a panel of educators and community members will be honored at the 14th annual Teacher of the Year banquet Thursday at the Bayou Restaurant in Havre de Grace.

Dr. Jon Andes, superintendent of Worcester County Public Schools, will be the speaker and Michelle Sledge, a jazz vocalist, and the Bel Air Pop Choir will perform. A current or former student will tell why his or her teacher deserves to be teacher of the year.

The finalists will receive $1,200 from HARCO Federal Credit Union, a $50 VISA gift card from Harford Bank, dinner certificates, several subscriptions, and commemorative ceramic apples.

The winner's gifts include a Dell laptop and printer, a watch, a clock, a plaque, gift cards, dinner certificates and an engraved school bell.

The finalists are:

Kristina Bilderback has been teaching for seven years, all in Harford. She teaches at Bel Air Elementary. She earned a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and is completing her master's in education from Notre Dame College in May.

She said she always wanted to be a teacher. Her parents are educators and she grew up teaching her brother, and stuffed animals.

"I feel like teaching is my calling and it really makes me who I am," she said. "I feel like I am making a difference in the world. It's all worthwhile when parents come back to me and say my son or daughter was really prepared for middle school."

Mary Jo Day has been teaching for 22 years, all in Harford. She teaches fourth grade at Abingdon Elementary. She earned a bachelor's degree in 1986 from Towson University.

She said she knew she wanted to be a teacher when she was a middle school student, after she saw a child being picked on by other children. She wanted to do something to make children feel good about themselves.

She tries to help her students meet challenges and work together as a community. "Children need to realize that they don't have to be the smartest person in the school to be successful, they just have to be able to work with others," she said.

Mark Evans has been teaching for eight years, all in Harford. He teaches math at Aberdeen High School's Science and Math Academy. He earned a bachelor's degree from Towson University.

He knew during his freshman year in college that he wanted to teach math. "I loved math and science, and I wanted to share that with other people, rather than getting stuck in a career that focused on me," he said. "All of my students are capable of more than they think they are. I try to stretch my students beyond what they think they can achieve."

Yvonne Gabriel has been teaching for 14 years, now as an earth science teacher at Aberdeen High School's Science and Math Academy. She earned a bachelor's degree in 1993 from Westchester University in Pennsylvania.

She knew she wanted to teach as a child. When she played school with her friends, she wanted to be the one to write on the chalkboard, she said. Her teaching motto is a Chinese proverb: "Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand."

"I try to teach with hands in the pot, [literally], and conversations on the table, as often as possible, or else I know they will leave forgetting everything by tomorrow," she said.

Peter Griffiths has been teaching social studies for 23 years, all at C. Milton Wright High School. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1985 from Loyola College.

He knew he wanted to be a teacher after he had been teaching for about four days, he said. He started teaching so he could become a guidance counselor. But after a few days in the classroom, he said he decided that maybe the teaching would work out.

"Teaching is a great opportunity to work with young people," he said. "I get to help them have a brighter future, and they help me have a fulfilling career. Working with 15- or 16- year- olds is a lot of fun, because they are fresh and enthusiastic."

Sharalyn Heinly has been teaching for 15 years, all in Harford. She teaches mathematics at North Harford Middle School, and American Sign Language at Harford Community College. She earned a bachelor's degree from Lipscomb University, in Nashville, Tenn.

She wanted to teach from the time she was about seven years old, she said. And she was tuned into working with the deaf at age 9, when she read about Helen Keller.

"I like my students to love math in spite of the fact they are learning math," she said. "I have fun trying to trick them into liking math. I sing songs and teach through discovery."

Christopher Hoover has been teaching for 12 years. For the past 11 years, he has taught social studies at Fallston High. He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Delaware, and a master's in 2004 from Johns Hopkins.

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