Ocean City Today
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Top county educator revealed

Fourteen candidates in running for Worcester’s prestigious award
By Kara Hallissey | Apr 06, 2017

(April 7, 2017) The Worcester County Teacher of the Year will be named for the 30th time tonight during an annual banquet inside the crystal ballroom at the Clarion Resort Hotel on 101st Street in Ocean City.

“This is a fantastic recognition program, and we are very excited to celebrate its 30th anniversary,” said Carrie Sterrs, coordinator of the event and spokeswomen for Worcester County schools.

Teachers were nominated through a ballot process by a student, parent, colleague, administrator or community member.

The 14 candidates represent each school in the county and six judges were responsible for reviewing each teacher’s portfolio, which included answers to questions about student engagement, infusing a global perspective to teaching and educational trends or issues.

Representatives from local colleges and universities in addition to a public official and retired teacher were among the judges.

The educator who receives the highest combined score on their portfolios and interviews wins the Worcester County Teacher of the Year title and advances to the state competition.

“The county Teacher of the Year becomes an ambassador representing all of the outstanding teachers of Worcester County,” Sterrs said. “The winner will represent Worcester County in the state level Teacher of the Year program as well as be a speaker at a number of county events.”

After county awards are presented, the 24 teachers, representing each of the school systems in Maryland, will have their portfolios judged and the field is narrowed down to seven finalists.

Next, interviews will be conducted in the competition for Maryland Teacher of the Year and the top teacher will be unveiled in October during a gala.

Worcester County earned the state title once, in 2007, when seventh grade English Language Arts teacher, Michelle Hammond, of Stephen Decatur Middle School, took home the honor.

Last year, Stephen Decatur High School English teacher, Kristina Belcher, was named Worcester County Teacher of the Year. Continuing with tradition, she will be the keynote speaker during the April 7 banquet.

The banquet honors current teachers while providing a reunion for retired teachers, who return each year to the ceremony, which began in 1988. There are 31 local sponsors this year, who provide gifts and donations to the event, winner and 14 nominated teachers.

“I continue to be surprised by the level of generosity and support our sponsors show for this recognition program each year,” Sterrs said. “It is truly overwhelming.”

The 2017 Worcester County Teacher of the Year candidates are:

• Tara Ball, Showell Elementary School: Ball graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish education from Shippensburg University and a Masters in English–TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Salisbury University.

Ball has been teaching English as a second language at Showell Elementary for six years. She addresses the English learning needs of her students through creative differentiated instruction.

As the kindergarten professional learning community coach, Ball focuses on improving instructional practices through collaborative efforts and data analysis.

Fluent in Spanish, she actively strives to reach students and parents with limited English proficiency. Ball incorporates global perspectives using the arts to help her student’s value diversity.

• Courtney Bova, Stephen Decatur High School: Bova graduated from Stephen Decatur High School, attended the University of Tampa and William and Mary, earning a bachelor of arts degree in history and a masters in teaching.

Bova has spent the last three of her nine years teaching psychology and advanced placement psychology at Stephen Decatur. Additionally, she advises mock trial, Relay For Life, the student government association, and is a member of the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) committee.

Bova hopes that students leave her classroom with a little more inquisitiveness than when they entered, as stronger critical thinkers with a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.

• Michelle Colegrove, Ocean City Elementary School: Colegrove earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a master’s degree in special education from Towson.

Colegrove is in her eighth year of teaching and third year at Ocean City Elementary School where she teaches third grade special education. She believes that fairness is not treating all children the same, but is providing the support that each individual needs to succeed.

At Ocean City Elementary School, Colegrove is a lead teacher, a member of the response to intervention team, a student mentor, and a teacher for summer academy. In addition, she has worked on the second, third, fourth, and kindergarten teams at her school.

• Julie Hickman, Snow Hill Elementary School: Hickman has a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Salisbury University and a master’s degree in supervisory leadership from Wilmington University.

After inspiring many young students throughout her 16 years of teaching elementary music at Pocomoke Elementary and Snow Hill Elementary, she decided to exchange her piano for an opportunity to teach second grade.

Her creative teaching skills from the stage help her to excite magic in her general education classroom. She believes that building positive student relationships is instrumental in creating an active, engaging, and successful learning environment.

• Julia Hill, Worcester Technical High School: Hill graduated from Stephen Decatur High School, earned a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics from Carson Newman College and a master of science degree in mathematics education from Salisbury University.

In her 13th year, Hill teaches pre-calculus and dual enrollment mathematics courses at Worcester Technical High School. She strives to provide a positive learning environment for students to collaborate, to think critically, and to develop lifelong learning habits.

Hill serves as an advisor for SkillsUSA, a member of her school improvement team and a developer for the county math curriculum. She is also a mentor for teenage mothers in the community.

• Trevor Hill, Stephen Decatur Middle School: Hill has a bachelor of arts degree from Carson Newman College in speech communication, a bachelor of arts degree from Salisbury University in mathematics education and a master’s degree from Walden University for technology in education. In addition, he is board certified in middle school mathematics.

Hill spent nine years teaching eighth grade math and is now in his fourth year of teaching gateway to technology courses. As much as he enjoys providing challenges for students, Hill loves helping students work through the productive struggle to reach that moment of eureka. He is also a robotics coach, soccer coach, and yearbook adviser.

• Karen Holland, Cedar Chapel Special School: Holland graduated from Stephen Decatur High School, earned a bachelor’s of science degree in special education from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and a masters of education degree in elementary school counseling from Wilmington University. Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership. In her 13th year, Holland is teaching all subjects to students at Cedar Chapel.

At the core of every instructional experience is her high expectations and never ending push to move students forward by modeling a positive perspective with the entire learning community. She believes that building a positive learning experience is the key to success.

• Jennifer Howard, Pocomoke Elementary School: Howard attended Pocomoke High School and graduated from Messiah College, earning a bachelor of science degree in music education and a master of arts in school counseling.

In her seventh year of teaching general music at Pocomoke Elementary School, she strives to give each child an opportunity to be creative, unique and shine. As a nationally certified counselor, Howard believes the most important aspects of teaching are building positive relationships and fostering a safe and caring learning environment.

Howard directs the Pocomoke Elementary choir, is a mentor to university interns, leads the Pocomoke Elementary Relay for Life team, and is active on several school committees.

• Barbara Kohut, Snow Hill Middle School: Kohut teaches fourth grade at Snow Hill Middle School. She has a bachelor of science degree in elementary education, a master of arts in English and a master of science degree in educational leadership.

Teaching for 15 years, 13 as a seventh grade ILA teacher, she serves Worcester County as a Teacher Champion for the WCPS Education Foundation, fourth grade team leader, new teacher mentor, intern supervisor, and as the school liaison for Salisbury University. She believes wholeheartedly in teaching positivity and practicing kindness. She believes the key to success is high expectations and building classroom relationships where students feel loved and safe.

• Jessica McInerney, Pocomoke High School: McInerney has a bachelor of arts in history and education from Denison University and a master’s of education degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been teaching for six years, including four years in government and advanced placement world history classes at Pocomoke High School.

She is the swim team coach, student United Way advisor, and co-chair of the Digital Devices Team. McInerney graduates in May with a masters in history from Salisbury University. Her love of history translates to her classroom, where students dissect historical nuances. McInerney encourages understanding lessons of history and the critical mindset needed to navigate the world.

• M Sgt. William Meekins, Snow Hill High School: Meekins joined the United States Marines in 1980 after graduating Dunbar High School in Baltimore. He retired 26 years later. Meekins received a bachelor’s degree in social science from the University of Maryland University College and a master’s degree in education counseling from Wilmington University.

He is currently seeking certification in addiction counseling. Meekins is in his 10th year as Snow Hill High School’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (MCJROTC) instructor. Giving back to the community and aiding others is what he promotes in his classroom.

He coaches cross-country and track and field in addition to volunteering at a men’s shelter. Meekins is also a court appointed special advocate representative.

• Ashley Miller, Berlin Intermediate School: Miller graduated from Stephen Decatur High School and has a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Towson University in addition to a master’s of education in school counseling from Wilmington University.

In her 11th year, Miller attributes her success to teaching the whole child. A student’s social and emotional needs are just as important as academic needs. It is Miller’s hope that a positive experience influences students to become lifelong learners.

Miller is currently a mentor teacher, an active member of Berlin Intermediate School’s communication committee, a lead teacher for writer’s workshop and mentors at risk students.

• Danielle Pall, Pocomoke Middle School: Pall graduated from Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. In addition, she received a master’s in special education from Johns Hopkins University and a second master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from McDaniel College.

In her sixth year at Pocomoke Middle School, Pall co-teaches fifth grade as the special educator and has a total of 16 years within the education system. Her dramatic and enthusiastic techniques make her classroom a safe and fun place to learn. She participates in afterschool programs, is a special education team leader, and mentor teacher to university interns.

• Sandra Rippin, Buckingham Elementary School: Rippin has a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Salisbury University. In her eighth year at Buckingham Elementary School, and 10th year in Worcester County, Rippin teaches third grade reading, both informational texts and literature. She believes in creating an environment filled with excitement for learning. Rippin strives to instill in each of her students the love for learning and that they can accomplish anything with hard work.

She is a mentor teacher to university interns, a member of her school’s Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) team, and the lead teacher for her third grade team.

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