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County schools will announce Teacher of Year

(March 15, 2013) Worcester County will reveal its champion teacher for 2013 next Friday during the annual Teacher of the Year Banquet, held at the Clarion in Ocean City as part of the larger state-level contest to determine who will be Maryland’s educational ambassador for the year.

“It’s a great way to celebrate the teaching profession and exceptional teachers,” said county schools’ Director of Special Programs Barb Witherow. “Often times our teachers are unsung heroes.”

Every year, the state of Maryland charges each of its 24 school districts — 23 counties, plus Baltimore City — with selecting a top teacher to serve as a candidate alongside teachers from other districts in the contest for Maryland Teacher of the Year. Although the state does not dictate exactly how the districts are to select their candidate, Worcester’s process mirrors a similar rubric to what its winning teacher will face at the state level.

At each of the county’s 14 public schools, according to Witherow, a selection committee of administrators is formed to receive nominations for that school’s best teacher. Nominations can be made by anyone involved — students, parents, and fellow teachers.

Following a review, the administrative panel selects one nominee to represent the school at the county level. At the point, the process becomes much more intensive, Witherow said.

“Ours mirrors almost exactly what the state requires; however, it is a little more stringent,” she noted. The 14 finalists must submit an extensive portfolio of their work experience, which will also be used if they advance to the state level.

But beyond that, each of Worcester’s candidates is interviewed by a six-person panel, consisting of four education specialists from local universities, as well as one retired veteran teacher and the county’s current Teacher of the Year.

The interview and portfolio review process goes through practical classroom methods, and beyond.

“All of the candidates are great instruction leaders and teachers,” Witherow noted. “The portfolio has seven sections … including student career readiness, teaching philosophy, and what their platform would be if they were to be Maryland’s state Teacher of the Year. It’s very comprehensive.”

The top performer, as judged on a 1,200-point composite rubric, will be named during next week’s event. The winner will serve throughout the year as a leader for teaching initiatives in the county, as well as an ambassador and champion of education at the state level.

Last year’s winner, Worcester Technical High School social studies teacher Tony Bevilacqua, “is very involved at the state level,” Witherow said. “All of the county Teachers of the Year participate in a number of functions, one recently was that they got to go to the House of Delegates and the State Senate and talk to our representatives about education.”

Next Friday’s dinner and award ceremony will also bring back as many former county Teacher of the Year winners as possible, even if they no longer live in the area. The award was first presented in 1988.

“We have wonderful sponsors for our banquet,” Witherow noted. “Because of them, we are able to bring our former Teachers of the Year back for the celebration.”

The 14 candidates, one representing each school, for the county’s Teacher of the Year are:


Elizabeth Atwood, Cedar Chapel Special School

Atwood graduated with a Bachelor of Science in organizational management from Robert’s Wesleyan College and earned a master’s in special education from Wilmington University. Currently in her sixth year at CCSS, Atwood integrates the Common Core State Standards with a functional living skills curriculum, while incorporating the principles of structured teaching. Atwood seeks to empower all children to be lifelong learners, contributing members of society, and productive citizens. As a mentor teacher for University of Maryland Eastern Shore student teaching interns, an AFG team member, ALT-MSA representative, Equal Measurements Coordinator and president of the Bishopville VFD Auxiliary, Atwood advocates and celebrates diversity in partnerships with family and community.



Mindy Bankert, Stephen Decatur Middle School

Bankert earned two Bachelor of Science degrees in marketing management and physical education and health, as well as a master’s in post-secondary education from Salisbury University. In her 15 years of teaching, Bankert has concentrated on teaching disability awareness, diversity appreciation, and character building through physical activity. Bankert applied her passion to create an after-school club called Equal Measurements, which encourages interaction between special and general education students as they collaborate on projects and train for Special Olympics. Dedicated to the community, Bankert is an advisor for the Builders Club and coordinator of the annual Veteran’s Day tribute. She currently teaches seventh- and eighth-grade physical education.


Tanya Call, Buckingham Elementary School

Call is in her seventh year of teaching kindergarten at BES. Call graduated Cum Laude from Salisbury University with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. She earned a master’s from Wilmington University, with dual certification in early childhood and elementary education and has completed 30 post-graduate credits in reading and special education. Call’s greatest reward is seeing her students’ excitement for learning. Her favorite moment is when a child first says, “I just read! I can do it!” Call is a member of the AFG Technology Team, PTA vice president, a mentor teacher for interns and an after-school program teacher for kindergarten and first grade.


Tara Cuplin, Snow Hill High School

Cuplin attended Frostburg State University, graduating Summa Cum Laude with departmental honors and a Bachelor of Arts degree in foreign languages and literature. She majored in French, minored in Spanish, and received her secondary education teaching certificate. Cuplin has been teaching French and Spanish for nearly 14 years and is currently pursuing a master’s in education from Wilmington University. Cuplin believes that in order for students to learn, they must feel safe and valued in the classroom. She seeks to inspire her students to expand their horizons beyond their own culture and learn about the world around them, both through learning a foreign language and studying different countries.


Gina Dean, Pocomoke Elementary School

Dean is a physical education teacher of 13 years, currently at PES, teaching kindergarten through third grade. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in physical education, Bachelor of Science in elementary education and master’s in post-secondary education from Salisbury University. Dean strives to create a positive learning environment where students develop both physical and mental skills, achieving success through individual and team interaction. Utilizing cross-curricular connections by integrating lessons with Common Core subject standards, she believes that by promoting effective physical activities in schools, students will develop the necessary knowledge to make informed, healthy lifestyle choices which can aid in preventing or reducing costly health care in the future.


Karen Eure, Snow Hill Elementary School

Eure graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish language and literature and a minor in early childhood education from Mary Washington College. She earned a Master of Education, with a concentration in reading, from Salisbury University. Eure began teaching at SHES in 1987, enjoying the ever-changing world of Kindergarten for 25 years. She believes that every child has potential to grow. Will her students learn a love of reading and a flair for the drama of good literature? Will they realize that numbers are fun to manipulate? Will singing, dancing, and painting inspire them? Eure believes it is her mission to foster their interest in answering these questions.


Jennifer Fohner, Ocean City Elementary School

Fohner graduated from Bowie State University with a Bachelor of Science in early childhood/special education and a Master of Science in reading and literacy from Walden University. She has been teaching for 14 years and is currently teaching pre-kindergarten at OCES. Fohner believes that all students can learn when they are in a safe, nurturing, and respectful environment. She also believes that students respond when they are engaged in lessons that involve hands-on activities and are meaningful. She is a member of the Math Team for Accreditation for Growth and teaches the after-school homework academy for fourth grade students.


Monica Forrester, Pocomoke Middle School

Forrester is in her seventh year of teaching at PMS, where she teaches art and gifted and talented, and serves as the school’s Arts Immersion Specialist. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Salisbury University and a Master of Arts in teaching from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. She believes that encouragement and praise for a job well done builds self-esteem in her students and creates a desire to achieve more. Forrester is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and serves on the Maryland Fine Arts Education Advisory Panel. In 2012, Forrester was recognized as an Outstanding Maryland Art Teacher.


Arlene Hager, Showell Elementary School

Hager began her career in education as an advocate, supporting early education and quality childcare in Worcester County. Currently, she is in her seventh year of teaching kindergarten at SES. Hager’s philosophy is based on providing hands-on, encouraging, and literature-enriched instruction. She provides a supportive learning environment that inspires individuality, creativity, respect and imagination. She finds that it is through music and rhyme, wonder and discovery, that critical thinking, problem solving and discussion are daily adventures where students are encouraged to learn something new every day. Hager is always cognizant of Benjamin Franklin’s adage: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”


Tracy Hunter, Worcester Technical High School

Tracy Hunter graduated from Salisbury University with a Bachelor of Science in nursing and a master’s in post-secondary education. Hunter is a 14-year teacher who teaches biomedical sciences and nursing at WTHS. She is also an adjunct nursing instructor at Salisbury University. Holding high expectations for her students, she uses project-based instruction to help students acquire the qualifying skills needed to become healthcare professionals. Hunter is the current science technology engineering and mathematics high school master-teacher for Worcester County Public Schools. She coordinates student internships and nursing clinical experiences, and serves as a mentor for new teachers.


Emily Insley, Stephen Decatur High School

Insley graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Delaware with Bachelor of Arts degrees in history and French education. She has taught students in all grade bands, from elementary through post-secondary. Insley believes that student engagement is the key to effective education and classroom management. She maintains that high expectations do not mean that learning has to be dull. In her sixth year at SDHS, she teaches French to ninth- through 12th-grade students. She is currently the Legal Interns’ teacher advisor and has served as a mentor teacher for Salisbury University interns.


Beth Price, Pocomoke High School

Price graduated from The College of William and Mary with a Bachelor of Arts in English and earned her Master of Arts in English at Salisbury University. She has taught for 23 years, the last four of which have been at PHS, where she teaches English 10, British literature and college writing. Price is chair of the English department at her school. She strives to engage her students in the challenging work of English scholars. Believing in the enormous potential of every teen that comes into her classroom, Price sets very high expectations and guides students toward reaching them.


Amanda Senter, Berlin Intermediate School

Senter has been teaching reading/language arts and mathematics to fifth-graders at BIS for 12 years. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Salisbury University with a Bachelor of Science in elementary education and a master’s in post-secondary education. She believes that building a community of learners helps students become comfortable taking risks and helps to build more autonomous learners. Senter motivates her students with lessons that are hands-on and infused with the arts, and believes hosting Salisbury University’s co-teachers (interns) plays an important role in her students’ success. Senter serves on the AFG reading committee, mentors new teachers, and is a former team leader.


Beau Williams, Snow Hill Middle School

Williams graduated from Salisbury University with a Bachelor of Arts in history and a Master of Arts in teaching. Williams is in his 10th year of teaching at SHMS and currently teaches eighth-grade social studies. He believes fostering cooperative group work and providing students with the opportunity to solve real-world problems in the classroom will enable them to develop the skills they need to be successful citizens in the 21st century. Williams is a Maryland Service Learning Fellow and advises the Student Government Association at his school. He serves as the eighth-grade team leader and is a PDS mentor teacher for interns.

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