A Mount Washington Elementary School teacher whose fifth-graders engage in lunchtime book club discussions and embody historic figures in social studies lessons has been named Baltimore City's 2011 Teacher of the Year.
Margaret May, who has taught language arts and social studies at Mount Washington Elementary for five years, was surprised with the honor Monday with a visit and a bouquet of roses from city schools CEO Andres Alonso, a chorus of ecstatic exclamations from excited students, and tears of happiness from principal Sue Torr.
May was chosen from 14 nominees who went through the annual process of written submissions, interviews and class observations. She will represent Baltimore in vying for the title of Maryland Teacher of the Year in the fall.
"It means a lot because Mount Washington as a whole has great teachers," May said. "It's a nice recognition for hard work, and to know that when you work hard at something, you can achieve your goals. My goal is to have [my students] leave my classroom with a love of learning that will continue."
Students and colleagues said May has far exceeded that goal.
According to fifth-grader Sam Sharfstein, May "works really hard for us," citing his favorite lessons as the "advanced things" and "interactive stuff," like the Promethean whiteboard that May uses daily to ramp up instruction.
Among May's accomplishments is having 100 percent of her students score proficient on the Maryland School Assessments in the 2007 through 2009 school years.
May's colleague Carol Pugh, a 36-year veteran of the school system who teaches fifth-grade math and science, said that May "goes into the details."
"She's always about the littlest details, and it's always those details that makes them want more," Pugh said. Pugh said that May devoting her lunch period to establish a book club this year was the biggest example of her style.
Nancy Neilson, coordinator for the Teacher of the Year selection process, said that May's classroom observation sealed the deal.
Neilson and other panelists, including former Teacher of the Year winners and a member of the Baltimore Teachers Union, observed a social studies lesson on the American Revolution. Students played historic figures such as loyalists and presidents and had to answer questions in accordance with their roles.
"The enthusiasm of Ms. May, and the enthusiasm of the children was infectious," Neilson said. "We were so wrapped up in what they were doing."
May, whose mother taught for 40 years, was praised as a leader in the classroom and in the district by school officials. In addition to teaching, she serves on the district's social studies curriculum committee, where she helps design lessons. She's also a lead teacher in literacy at Mount Washington Elementary, where she plans professional development for her colleagues.
Torr said she nominated May, who has been teaching 10 years, because she epitomizes the school's growing profile of excellence.
In the last year, Mount Washington received the prestigious Blue Ribbon designation, was approved to expand through eighth grade, and announced that it will begin offering the International Baccalaureate Program to its middle school students next year.
The school also received a 2010 Green School Award, which May helped secure by serving on the school's Green School initiative.
"It's just been magnificent and an uplifting experience to work here," Torr said. "It was an opportunity to put somebody forward from our school that would be a great example of Mount Washington."
May also received a host of gifts from local organizations, including a gym membership, a laptop and a new printer for her classroom.