Thursday, August 5, 2010

Three Alumnae Are Maryland Teachers of the Year

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Three Washington College alumnae are among the 24 educators chosen by their districts as Maryland’s 2010 Teachers of the Year. Each year, Baltimore City and Maryland’s 23 counties select the best public school teachers in their districts, and they become nominees for the statewide title of Maryland Teacher of the Year. The state winner will be announced October 8.
In 2008, Washington College alumna April DeMar Todd ’95, then a language arts teacher at Somerset Intermediate School in Westover, won the state title. The alumnae in the running for that honor this year are Crystal Windsor Owens ’96 (Dorchester County, pictured above, right), Kristin Rosegren Hurlock ’00 (Queen Anne’s County, pictured below), and Tanya Briddell ’04 (Somerset County, pictured above, left).

Crystal Windsor Owens ’96, lives in Salisbury and teaches first grade at Choptank Elementary School. After earning a degree in psychology from Washington College, she received a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Salisbury University and a master’s in psychology from the University of Baltimore. Majoring in psychology helped her understand child development and various learning styles, she says. “My professors at Washington College encouraged me to develop and maintain positive and professional relationships with people,” she adds. “They also provided an excellent example of how teachers work hard each day to encourage students to achieve their potential. ”
Owens says she aims to instill a love of learning in her young studentsand works hard to involve the parents, too. “We host a variety of parent events, from student showcases to a summer skills academy that prepares the parents to help their children with homework,” she explains. In addition to her school committee work, she mentors candidates for teaching certification and assists with a school-based Girl Scout Troop. She recently received a grant for Professional Development in Reading, which she will use to help improve student sight word recognition. One thing Owens says she knows for certain: “All children can learn.”

Kristin Rosegren Hurlock ’00 (above, with students) was nominated from Queen Anne’s County by her Advanced Placement students in U.S. government and politics at Kent Island High School. A political science major who minored in philosophy, she credits professor emeritus of politics Dr. John Taylor for giving her one of the foundations for her teaching. “He always influenced me to not only read the text and know the background, but to stay up with current events—to know how our systems of government were conceived and how they work today, she says. “He also especially embodied the principle of loving what you teach.”

Students pay her back with their performance: Her classes have averaged a 96 percent pass rate on the state’s high school assessment tests in U.S. Government, and boasted a 100 percent pass rate in 2009. Kristin says she rarely passes up a chance at professional development or an opportunity to contribute to the greater school community. She has revitalized the high school’s student advising program and led initiatives to improve attendance, discipline and communication with students and families. For the 2010-11 school year, as part of the new Teacher Academy of Maryland, she will teach college-level classes in education to high school seniors who want to jump- start their teacher training.

Tanya Briddell (shown above with some of her students), a 2004 summa cum laude graduate of Washington College, is in her seventh year of motivating learners in her English and theater classes at Washington Academy and High School in Somerset County. She majored in drama, minored in English and prepared for her teaching certificate while at WC. She says she felt “super prepared” to be a teacher. Especially influential were Dale Daigle, professor of theater, and former head of the education program, Sean O Connor.

“With Dale, you wanted to try new things and stretch yourself because he was so supportive,” she says. “I try to model how I teach my theater classes after the way he taught me.” Similarly, she adds, Dr. O Connor created a sense of community among education students and built their confidence through in-class teaching experiences. “Every day, he modeled what a good teacher is,” she says. “He used the strategies he wanted us to learn.”

Briddell’s drama program at the high school grows bigger and stronger each year. In addition to producing two plays a year, she takes students to the Festival of Eastern Shore Theater – “a great opportunity for high school students to get together to learn and compete” – and brings small groups of students to Chestertown to see Washington College productions. Her theater outreach has earned her kudos not only as her county’s Teacher of the Year, but also as an “Unsung Hero” of Somerset County.

O Connor, who retired from teaching in 2008, points out that the Teacher Certification program at Washington College is the smallest in Maryland in terms of student numbers; interested students pursue a traditional academic major and add education courses that prepare them for teacher certification. “What’s interesting to me, too, is the number of WC graduates who don’t go through our education program but six or seven years after graduation decide they will gain more intellectual and civic satisfaction by becoming a teacher,” he adds. “Two of the three nominated for Teacher of the Year are in this category. I like to view these decisions as a byproduct of our liberal-arts education, of stretching young minds. It would appear that ‘growing educators’ is a significant part of what our faculty does each year.”