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What's Up Magazine

What’s Up? Teachers Annapolis

Jan 06, 2014 01:20PM ● By Cate Reynolds
Each January, What’s Up? Annapolis publishes the annual Private School Guide, introducing readers to the wealth of alternative education options available within Anne Arundel County. There are, no doubt, many amazing teachers at these institutions. And we would like to introduce you to some of them.

Meet our What’s Up? Teachers—private school teachers who go above and beyond their classroom duties to not only educate and inspire their students, but engage the school community as a whole. We all remember a special teacher during our own formative years who guided us in and out of the classroom and had a profound influence on our development and that of others. The following teachers are doing the same for this generation of students.

Photography by TONY LEWIS, JR.

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Lynn Miller


Degree: Concordia Teacher’s College, River Forest, IL

Years teaching: 39

Years teaching at current school: 20

Grades and subjects taught: Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Religious Studies (1st/2nd); Gifted and Talented program (1st–8th)

Proudest teaching moment? Each day I have the honor and joy of teaching alongside one of my former first grade students. She is now the second grade teacher at St. Martin’s. She told me she wanted to spend her first years as a teacher in the school where she spent some of her happiest days. That is an amazing tribute, not only to me, but to all the teachers who touched her life in our school.

Summarize your teaching philosophy: I strive to model what I endeavor to teach.

In your opinion, what is the toughest challenge educators have and how are you working to overcome it? Creating balance in education. As technology becomes a larger factor in classroom instruction, it is important to balance the use of these amazing tools with a continued focus on what are still the essentials of a good education. Mastering the basics of phonics, reading, and math facts; good social interaction; and good study habits will continue to remain important regardless of the tools used to enhance any classroom. At the root of all of this is the continuing need for students to learn self-discipline and self-confidence.

“Mrs. Miller engages and nurtures each child to prepare them for a great start with their education. It is not unusual for her to work with a child during her lunch or after school if she can assist them. She makes learning fun and has a wonderful manner that connects with her students. She is a real blessing.” 
—Carol Campbell, Director of Admissions of St. Martin's Lutheran School of Annapolis

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Philip Lenham


Degree: Virginia Tech, B.S. in Forestry and Wildlife and M.S. in Forestry

Years teaching: 15

Years teaching at current school: 14

Grades and subjects taught: Introduction to Environmental Science (9th/10th), Chemistry (10th), AP Environmental Science (11th/12th); is the 11th grade Class Dean and the Director of the James M. Stine Environmental Center (SEC)

Proudest teaching moment? When my former students return and tell me how prepared they were for their college science courses.

Summarize your teaching philosophy: To know and value the students placed in my charge, help them reach their individual potential, and instill in them a lifelong love of the environment.

In your opinion, what is the toughest challenge educators have and how are you working to overcome it? For us in science, it is often walking the fine line between teaching the content of a course and the practical application of that content through lab experience. I am fortunate enough to have the SEC where I can take my students to work out in the fi eld what they are learning in the classroom. Also, with our one-to-one iPad program at Severn it is possible to collect data in the fi eld and quickly analyze and interpret that data in “real time.”

“Phil is beautifully organized, thoroughly reliable, and utterly competent. He is broadly well informed and extremely articulate and persuasive on his feet and in writing. In the classroom, not only are his lessons at every level well planned, but Phil is also careful to ensure that each student thoroughly understands all content and processes. Phil is popular with students for the right reasons. He holds and articulates a high standard and helps students reach that standard by genuinely caring for each and every student.”
—Douglas H. Lagarde, Head of School of Severn School

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Patricia Bisson


Degree: Loyola University Maryland

Years teaching: 22

Years teaching at current school: 9

Grades and subjects taught: All subjects, most recently Language Arts (3rd–7th)

Proudest teaching moment? A student who struggled with learning difficulties invited me to her 8th grade graduation, for which she gave a speech as the 8th grade class president. She mentioned in her speech that she learned to believe in herself after having me as her 4th and 5th grade teacher. I was so proud to see her delivering the speech as the class president, and I was quite humbled as she mentioned me in this way in her speech.

Summarize your teaching philosophy: I strive to meet the needs of all of my students by providing enriching, engaging, and, at times, entertaining approaches to the learning environment.

In your opinion, what is the toughest challenge educators have and how are you working to overcome it? I would rather consider the challenges facing educators as we are lifelong learners. As I approach a challenge, I look at it as an opportunity for learning. Right now, I am in the process of learning how to incorporate technological advances into my daily language arts instruction.

“Patricia truly exemplifies the qualities of a Catholic educator while demonstrating the numerous skills of a master teacher. Mrs. Bisson takes time to build and promote community, and she has an established rapport with her students and families.”
—Megan Back, Director of Admissions of St. Mary's Elementary

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Kelly Rampmeyer


Degree: McDaniel College, Westminster

Years teaching: 4

Years teaching at current school: 4

Grades and subjects taught: Reading and English (1st–5th)

Proudest teaching moment? Earlier this year, I was emailed a video from the mother of one of my students. It was a video of her 2nd grade daughter explaining that she had finally learned to read and how life would be “so much more amazing.” The video brought me to tears. Our students struggle with reading, and so many of them come to Summit from other environments where they had negative experiences and terrible confidence in themselves. Whenever you witness those light bulbs going on, it's an incredible feeling.

Summarize your teaching philosophy: To engage, encourage, nurture, and inspire each student.

In your opinion, what is the toughest challenge educators have and how are you working to overcome it? Each of our students shine brightly in their own way, and it’s my job to engage with each of them according to what motivates them individually, and then set up a stimulating and rigorous, yet neurologically safe, environment that helps them each reach their own potential. To meet that challenge, I seek many opportunities for professional development, both informal and formal.

“Among Summit School’s constellation of stellar instructors is a particular shining star, Kelly Rampmeyer, who sparkles brightly because she embodies all of the qualities that make a “great” teacher. Not only does Kelly use her estimable skill and creativity to meet her students’ diverse instructional needs, she also finds time, inside and outside of school, for activities that add fun to learning and that bring our community together.”
—Dr. Joan Mele-McCarthy, CCC-SLP, Executive Director of The Summit School

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Tracy Alexander


Degree: West Virginia Wesleyan College, B.A.

Years teaching: 18

Years teaching at current school: 10

Grades and subjects taught: Philosophy (5th); English, History, and Geography (6th); Philosophy and Leadership (7th); History (8th)

Proudest teaching moment? I read aloud the novel A Long Walk to Water as a focus and listening long-term lesson. When we got to the end of the book—everyone was teary eyed—and the class exploded into spontaneous applause. We talked excitedly about how it was the best ending of a book—ever! The next day, they asked if we could read the ending again.

Summarize your teaching philosophy: When my students leave me, my hope is that they will possess a sense of awareness—of themselves and of the world in which they live.

In your opinion, what is the toughest challenge educators have and how are you working to overcome it? Learning is a highly individualized process. Often, presenting one thing—one way to a group of students—will not elicit learning. It takes multiple approaches and materials. The challenge is in both—teaching so everyone can learn and in allowing them to express what they’ve slurped up in ways that complement their learning styles and interests. It takes creativity and flexibility.

“Tracy is an exemplary teacher, always looking for innovative ways to lead her students to question, discover, and connect. Openness to the world is a key tenet of Tracy’s teaching. Helping her students learn to read with insight and empathy is important to Tracy. In addition to her classroom teaching, Tracy is the middle school team lead teacher, helping to acclimate new teachers, coordinate events, and provide professional development for other teachers.”
—Rev. Dr. Frank Sawyer, Head of School of St. Martin’s-in-the-Field Episcopal School

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Amy Brunner


Degree: University of Maryland University College, M.A. in Teaching; University of Maryland, M.B.A.; Penn State University, B.S. in Information Systems

Years teaching: 7

Years teaching at current school: 7

Grades and subjects taught: Project Lead the Way Pathway to Engineering program (9th/10th)

Proudest teaching moment? I think my proudest moments pass me by without me even knowing. It’s when students return for a visit and share with me what they are doing now and how my classes have influenced their path. Those moments are the best!

Summarize your teaching philosophy: “Teach the whole person.” I’m not just teaching engineering—I’m teaching students how to treat others, ask questions, advocate for themselves, contribute to the community, give presentations, work through frustration, communicate effectively, think for themselves.

In your opinion, what is the toughest challenge educators have and how are you working to overcome it? Balance. As teachers, we teach our content area, but there are so many other things we try to weave into our lessons: critical reading skills, data analysis, technology, social media, wikis, learning management systems, apps, ethics, morals, history, test taking strategies, behavior modification, iPads, SmartBoards, life lessons, current events, interesting facts—the list goes on and on. As teachers, we are always trying to find the right balance of content, strategies, technology, and classroom management to deliver awe-inspiring lessons to help our students grow.

“Mrs. Brunner has broadened the learning experience for our students so that it is far beyond the typical daily classroom. She makes our students feel welcomed and part of the experience. Her ability to connect so well on the human level, and explain such difficult technical material, is remarkable! In addition, she has an unmatched work ethic and goes out of her way to help students. We are fortunate to have such a dedicated educator.”
—Lewis Van Wambeke, Principal of Archbishop Spalding High School

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Bradley Finkbeiner


Degree: M.A.L.A. from St. John’s College graduate program

Years teaching: 15

Years teaching at current school: 15

Grades and subjects taught: Honors Philosophy (11th/12th), Public Forum Debate (8th–12th)

Proudest teaching moment? To behold the transformation of a particular young lady. When I first taught this “concrete” thinker back in 7th grade, I could not imagine her succeeding in my junior and senior level Great Ideas courses. Interestingly, when that day finally came, I had the honor of serving as her thesis advisor. She chose as her topic (ready for this?) the integration of Aristotle’s philosophy of happiness in the theology of Thomas Aquinas. And then the final night of the senior year arrived, the night of their public thesis defense. This singular moment was the capstone of her training. And then it happened. The butterfly burst free. Gone was the black and white mind of that charming little 7th grade deer in the headlights. In her place stood an elegant, poised, and sophisticated rhetorician, who delivered one of the best speeches, and gave one of the best defenses, of the entire evening. The capstone of her studies became, in a sense, the capstone of my teaching. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Summarize your teaching philosophy: “True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse…”—Nikos Kazantzakis

In your opinion, what is the toughest challenge educators have and how are you working to overcome it? The toughest challenge to educators today is the same as in Plato’s day—how to instill a love for what ought to be loved. There is no silver bullet, no formulaic, three-step method. It’s more along the lines of what the military calls “total war,” involving the unrestrained mobilization of all one’s forces: the force of logic, of passion, of modeling, of experimenting, of failing and trying again, and, perhaps most importantly, of you yourself loving in front of them the things they ought to love.

“Bradley Finkbeiner provides the moral compass for Rockbridge Academy. A trusted advisor to other teachers, a confi dant of administrators, and a faithful mentor to high school students, Bradley is the teacher we all wish that we had in high school. He completely pours himself into his teaching and students. His classrooms are lively places of discussion, discourse, debate, and learning due to his engaging and innovative teaching.” 
—Ralph Janikowsky, Upper School Principal of Rockbridge Academy

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Will and Emily Bartz


Degree: Towson University, B.S. in Biology and Secondary Education and a M.A.

Years teaching: 7

Years teaching at current school: 7

Grades and subjects taught: Computers (6th– 8th), Earth Science (7th), Environmental Science (9th), AP Biology (11th/12th), Marine Biology (12th), Chemistry (10th); Biology (11th), Anatomy and Physiology (12th), Support Teacher (9th–12th), and Varsity Field Hockey Coach

Proudest teaching moment? One of my former students came back and told me she was switching her degree to education at her college so she could be a high school teacher because she wanted to help kids “survive” high school the way I had helped her survive in high school.

Summarize your teaching philosophy: Make every kid know and feel that I care about them, that I am on their side and want them to be successful.

In your opinion, what is the toughest challenge educators have and how are you working to overcome it? I think the toughest challenge educators have now is trying to help kids be well balanced, have high self-esteem, and feel successful with how competitive and driven high school has become. I try to overcome this by celebrating and making a big deal about any small wins or tiny success that may have happened so at some point the kids feel successful and hopefully happy, and maybe get a bit of confidence in themselves.

Degree: Franklin & Marshall College, 2003

Years teaching: 9

Years teaching at current school: 9

Grades and subjects taught: Geometry, Topics in Geometry, Human Development, Director of Academic Support Program, Director of STARs Program (9th–11th), and Head Boys Basketball Coach

Proudest teaching moment? Nothing makes me more proud than to see all young people and their families being able to pursue higher education through the STARs Program at Indian Creek [an academic camp and scholarship feeder program that targets Title One Anne Arundel County Public Schools with a high number of participants in the free lunch program]. I feel truly blessed to be a part of the program and supported by our administration and families in our community.

Summarize your teaching philosophy: I believe the most important skills that a student can take from my classroom are a sense of self confidence to take academic risks, understand their learning profiles, be a leader that helps others and can also be a part of a team concept, appreciate diversity of all kinds, and to be able to advocate for themselves in pursuit of their goals in and out of the classroom.

In your opinion, what is the toughest challenge educators have and how are you working to overcome it? The social culture that our students face in our current technologically advanced society. With the evolution of the Internet and cell phones, there is little “social rest” for them. Whether this extends to cyber bullying or peer pressure involving risk-taking behavior, our kids are constantly facing decisions that can cause severe anxiety and stress. Our philosophy at Indian Creek revolves around the first building block of developing a student’s self-esteem to be able to fight these pressures and evolve as a young person in and out of the classroom. The students are given an open forum to discuss these feelings amongst their peers and an adult, which also builds a feeling of the students and teachers forming a united front rather than students versus teachers.

“Will and Emily are both exceptional teachers, as well as exceptional coaches. They spend an incredible amount of time with kids, and foster the kind of teacher/student relationship that truly helps kids achieve.” —Rick Branson, Head of School of Indian Creek School

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