A Frederick County teacher who believes "chemistry is everywhere and for everyone" has been named the top educator in Maryland, state education officials announced Friday.
Michelle M. Shearer, a chemistry teacher at Urbana High School, was surprised with the honor of being named the 2010-2011 Maryland Teacher of the Year during a gala attended by several dignitaries Friday night at Martin's West in Baltimore.
"Choosing Maryland's Teacher of the Year is never an easy task for the judging panel," state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said in a statement. "Ms. Shearer has proven to be a leader in our children's educational journey because she takes the time to explore the best method of learning for each student by building individual relationships with them in her classroom."
Shearer, chosen from among 24 teachers from around the state, prides herself on producing Maryland's "scientists of the future," a state news release said. A graduate of Princeton University and McDaniel College, Shearer attended Gallaudet and Walden universities and holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry, a master's degree in deaf education, and dual certification in chemistry and general special education.
The daughter of an elementary school music teacher and a chemist who held education in high regard, Shearer traded in her college dream of becoming a scientist to pursue teaching. She said her teaching career was inspired by her parents and working with deaf students at the Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf in Trenton, N.J. She is fluent in American Sign Language, and taught at the Maryland School for the Deaf.
"My teaching philosophy is based on the belief that an educator's strong positive connection with students is essential to their academic success," Shearer wrote in her application.
"When students feel that a teacher is genuinely invested in their progress, they become eager to invest in themselves and take ownership of their educational efforts," she wrote. "The classroom is my mirror, so the energy my students display reflects what they see in me. I am honored to be a part of the image."
As the 2010 Maryland Teacher of the Year, Shearer will receive prizes worth tens of thousands of dollars.
The prizes include: a $9,000 cash award; a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze from the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association; a week at National Space Camp; $15,000 worth of technological equipment; and a four-day trip to the Teacher of the Year Conference in Dallas.
She will also be honored by President Barack Obama at the White House next year, and will compete for the title of National Teacher of the Year, due to be announced in April.