Franklin Elementary music teacher wins Baltimore County award

Ralene Jacobson praised for her passion as she accepts Teacher of the Year honors

May 07, 2010|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

After a brief and modest thank-you speech to her friends and colleagues Friday, Franklin Elementary School teacher Ralene Jacobson took to her keyboard and illustrated why she was being honored.

The music teacher of 29 years took a seat in the corner of a room to provide accompaniment and vocals as two of her students took center stage to sing a rendition of the Quaker hymn "How Can I Keep from Singing?"

It was putting her students first, supporting them in their endeavors and teaching that music is relevant on any occasion that Jacobson's colleagues said rightfully earned her the title of Baltimore County's "Teacher of the Year" for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Upon hearing that she had been selected by a group of fellow teachers, Jacobson said she asked simply, "Why me, a music teacher?"

But, as she reflected on how her students learned multiplication through song and the Bill of Rights through rhythmic chants, in addition to the culture, history and personal harmony that music fosters in students, she realized that "teaching music involved a much broader spectrum," she said.

"I just really appreciate having the opportunity to do what I love most — and that's working with children and working with music," Jacobson said of her award.

Jacobson, who has taught at Franklin Elementary for 14 years, was chosen from among 30 teachers in the district whose principals nominated them for the honor. She was one of five finalists and is now in the running for state Teacher of the Year..

The other finalists were: McKinley Broome, a fourth-grade teacher at Woodholme Elementary in Owings Mills; Vicki Charikofsky, a fifth-grade teacher at Summit Park Elementary in Pikesville; Anne Groth, a library media specialist at Cromwell Valley Elementary in Towson; and Jillian Lewis-Darden, an elementary math and reading inclusion teacher at Edmondson Heights Elementary in Woodlawn.

All of the candidates were recognized by Baltimore County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston and local dignitaries during a ceremony at Baltimore County school headquarters.

"It was extremely difficult because all of the nominees were of such high caliber," said selection committee member Robin August, a sixth-grade teacher at Deep Creek Middle. "I wish there could be five teachers of the year."

August, who was teacher of the year for 2007-2008, said that Jacobson made an impression with the selection committee when she told the members that she removed all of her chairs from her classroom to encourage excitement and engagement.

"When going through the process, I thought, 'What classroom would I want my child in?' And her passion came through from the inside-out."

Those personal touches are what Franklin Elementary School Principal Joyce Albert said made Jacobson the prime candidate when she nominated her in the winter.

"Ralene exudes excellence in everything that she does, and she instills that in her students," Albert said.

Though lauded as an accomplished musician, Jacobson also attributes her love for teaching to her family: Her grandmother and mother were teachers.

In honor of her award, Jacobson received a host of gifts, including a new laptop computer, a night at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a year's gym membership and her own parking space marker.

But it was the $15,000 in technological enhancements that will be installed in her classroom and the $300 worth of music books that will be shelved in Franklin Elementary's library next year that nearly brought her to tears.

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