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What's Up Magazine

What’s Up? Teachers 2015

Jan 05, 2015 11:47AM ● By James Houck
Meet several inspirational leaders in the classroom

Each January for the past several years, What’s Up? Annapolis, West County, and Eastern Shore has published the annual Private School Guide, introducing readers to the wealth of education options available throughout Anne Arundel County and beyond. There are, no doubt, many amazing teachers at these institutions. And we would like to introduce you to several.

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 that guided us in and out of the classroom and had a profound influence on our development and that of others. Each of the following teachers have been nominated by their heads of school for these very reasons.


Daniel McGrain

Archbishop Spalding High School, Severn

Degrees: University of Maryland, BS–Political Science; University of Maryland, BS–Education; Loyola University Maryland, MEd–Education Administration

Years teaching at Spalding: 6

Grades and subjects taught: 9th grade World History; 10th grade AP European History; 10th–12th grade AP Macroeconomics; 11th–12th grade IB Economics

Proudest teaching moment: I always love the moment when a student who feels like they couldn’t accomplish a task or goal finally gets all the pieces to click and returns with a moment of, “I did it, finally!”

Teaching philosophy: My philosophy has always been that skills matter so much more than content, especially at the high school level. As cheesy as it sounds, I want to challenge my students to affect the world, not just exist in it, when they leave my room.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? I think education is becoming too focused on statistics. I love to break down the data as much as anyone, but I think data should be used to help teachers and schools improve, not used to judge and categorize students in the way it is presently being used.


Ann Hagerott

Annapolis Area Christian School, Annapolis

Degrees: Towson University, BS–Sociology; McDaniel College, MA–Education (Curriculum and Instruction)

Years teaching at AACS: 10

Grades and subjects taught: 4th–5th grade History

Proudest teaching moment: During our Revolutionary War Unit, students selected and studied an individual who impacted the war. They were challenged to recognize the sacrifices the people we studied made in this effort. Then, they were to find a person today who was making similar sacrifices for others, and write a letter to that person expressing appreciation. Many students received responses. One of my students came to me with an American flag, certificate of authenticity, and a letter from a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. The letter stated that the flag flew over his base in Kabul. This young lady was so proud of that flag and seemed to recognize the importance of living a life of self-sacrifice.

Teaching philosophy: My teaching philosophy assumes that every student is made by God for a unique purpose and therefore all are of great value. My job is to help students on the road to that discovery.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? To produce graduates who are willing to live lives of sacrifice and courage. My goal is to produce students who are, early on, thinking about serving others instead of simply serving themselves.


Christine Zito

The Summit School, Edgewater

Degrees: Rochester Institute of Technology, BS–Biotechnology; Ithaca College, MA–Teaching in Adolescence Education

Years teaching at Summit: 2

Grades and subjects taught: 7th grade Math, Life Science; 8th grade Algebra, Physical Science, and NXT-G Robotics Programming

Proudest teaching moment: Last year, I planned a STEM day for the last day of school. It was amazing to watch all of the students at my school engage in engineering design challenges and make creative and successful solutions to the problems we posed. I was pleased to see our students rise to the challenge and also enjoy the activities.  

Teaching philosophy: As a science teacher, I want my students to understand their connection to the world around them. I work to inspire my students and make science come alive through hands-on and cooperative learning activities.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Keeping up with our own education. There is so much to do, that it is easy to become stagnant in our content and skills. To avoid this, I regularly attend professional development workshops and content specific conferences.


Ellen Smith

St. Mary’s High School, Annapolis

Degrees: State University of New York at Plattsburgh, B.A.–Spanish, B.A.–Latin American Studies, MS–Teaching

Years teaching at St. Mary’s: 6

Grades and subjects taught: 11th–12th grade Spanish III, Spanish III Honors, Spanish IV, Spanish IV Honors, and AP Spanish

Proudest teaching moment: I take pride in being someone students can look to for support, encouragement, and an example of faith. When I reflect on this, it seems clear that my proudest teaching moment was when I chose to teach at a place where students feel comfortable enough to share their gratitude, accomplishments, and their faith with me.

Teaching philosophy: To develop the student’s ability to think, comprehend, analyze synthesize, and evaluate information. My purpose is to help my students acquire these skills through the study of the Spanish language and culture.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? To stay current and relevant. Each year brings new challenges with changing curriculum, advancing technology, and meeting the individual needs of the teenagers whose first priority may or may not be the concept that is being taught.


Mary Mannix

Indian Creek School, Crownsville

Degrees: Rosemont College, BA; Argosy University, MA–Ed.

Years teaching at Indian Creek: 26

Grades and subjects taught: Taught 1st grade for 17 years and a Learning Specialist for 6 years. Currently, Director of Teaching & Learning

Proudest teaching moment: When I see teachers I coach develop a deeper understanding of themselves as teachers, become more thoughtful and intentional in their practice, and acquire new skills and strategies that elevates individual teaching practice from good to great.

Teaching philosophy: If the learning process fits the student, there is no limit to what that student can achieve. When a school provides students with the tools to develop to their full potential, students learn how to solve cognitively complex problems, persist when faced with adversity, and work collaboratively.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Research shows that students benefit when teachers are learners themselves. Yet teachers have so many day-to-day demands on their time that they seldom have the opportunity for self-reflection or for their own active learning. Through weekly classroom observations and learning conversations, teachers and I identify goals and explore opportunities to challenge their very own teaching conventions and move beyond their current practice.


Ellie Falk Young

The Key School, Annapolis

Degrees: Johns Hopkins University, M.A.–Teaching; Bowdoin College, B.A.

Years teaching at Key: 13

Grades and subjects taught: Preschool–4th grade Elementary Math Coordinator; 1st–4th grade Life Skills; 3rd–4th grade Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, and Science

Proudest teaching moment? A group of nine-year-old students worked intently for 45 minutes on a single math problem. The directions read, “Use each of the digits 1–9 one time to create two three-digit addends that make a three-digit sum.” I have seen adults struggle with this exact problem and, quite frankly, most give up in minutes. Not these mathematicians. Once one student found a successful method, it spread like wild fire. Other students expanded upon this strategy until each student had generated their own unique solutions to the problem.

Teaching philosophy: To inspire joy in learning.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Students today are the busiest people I know. In addition to the demands of school, they have many activities—sports, the arts, clubs— and the constant bombardment of electronics pinging with social media updates. This makes it all the more important that the math class be a place where students can leave behind the frenetic pace of the world and lose themselves in the rich universe of mathematics.


Barbara Duvall

Rockbridge Academy, Millersville

Degrees: Colorado State University, BS; Colorado State University, MBA

Years teaching at Rockbridge: 15

Grades and subjects taught: 1st–6th grade Science, Outdoor Summer Seminars

Proudest teaching moment: It’s when the introverted, quiet, but bright young man gives his poetry recitation at the end of the year and has the class in the palm of his hand. But the icing on the cake is when that same young man, now a senior, stops by and tells my current students that his fourth-grade “was a good year” and that he “learned a lot.” It is a proud moment to hear his comment and know just how great is his understatement—because I was there, too.

Teaching philosophy: Rooted in the book of Colossians, my teaching philosophy springs from the verses which say “…all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Education then, for me, is truly a communication of the absolute interrelatedness to Christ of every subject and pursuit.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Students’ all-to-common immersion in our high-speed, high-tech, image-based culture. I am then faced with persuading the student to slow down and attend to our classical method of education, which is word-based.


Jennifer Cernak

St. Andrew’s Day School, Edgewater

Degree: Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, Human Studies

Years teaching at St. Andrew’s: 8

Grades and subjects taught: 3rd–4th grade Homeroom; 6th grade Math; 9th–12th grade Science; and GED Instructor

Proudest teaching moment: As a teacher, I am fortunate enough to be in a profession where I see students accomplish remarkable feats daily. Just to have the privilege of being trusted with the education and lives of hundreds children throughout my career brings me a deep sense of satisfaction.

Teaching philosophy: My job as an educator is to foster an engaging classroom community that provides opportunities for students to explore and discover. Students perform at their best when provided with a safe learning environment where they can feel comfortable to search the depths of their curiosity. 

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? The students of today face very different challenges than my generation and the generation before me. For that reason, the most difficult challenge is the expectation to keep up with the fast-paced, ever-changing, and complex lives of their students.


Karen Bennett

Severn School, Severna Park

Degree: Washington University St. Louis, BA–Elementary Education and History

Years Teaching at Severn: 11

Grades and subjects taught: 4th grade Language Arts, Math, and Social Studies

Proudest teaching moment: Each year, our fourth graders fully participate in a naturalization ceremony at the Federal Courthouse in Baltimore. This is the culmination of months of learning, not just about what it means to be American, but about how immigration affects people and nations around the globe, past and present. These young students earnestly raise their voices to sing to our newest citizens, stand confidently at the podium in a packed courtroom to address the audience, and intelligently engage the citizens in one-on-one conversations at a post-ceremony reception. I am so proud of them!

Teaching philosophy: I believe that my effectiveness as a teacher begins when my students walk into a warm, welcoming classroom each morning. This includes not only creating a comfortable physical space, but a comfortable emotional space as well.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? As educators, we compete for our students’ attention in a world that promotes passive learning and flashy, neatly packaged sound bites. I want my students to understand the power of creative thinking and to value perseverance.


Karen White

St. Martin’s-in-the-Field Episcopal School, Severna Park

Degrees: Towson University, BS–Early Childhood Education; Master’s Equivalency from Graduate Studies at Old Dominion and Towson University

Years teaching at St. Martin’s: 4

Grades taught: Pre-K–2nd grade

Proudest teaching moment: Every time a student can communicate a new way of a solving a problem. We adults usually have a stock answer that we expect. I love it when a child discovers a new angle and can help me see a different way to come to a  conclusion. 

Teaching philosophy: I believe that it is my job to inspire students to be lifelong learners.  I want my students to understand that reading and math aren’t just subjects to learn.  Reading and math are tools to use to open their worlds to infinite learning possibilities.


Marybeth Baumann

St. Mary’s Elementary School, Annapolis

Degrees: Mount Saint Mary’s University, BA–Communication Studies, Accredited Minor in Elementary Education; Georgian Court University, K–5 Certification with Advanced Standing Endorsement, Teacher of Students with Disabilities

Years teaching at St. Mary’s: 4

Grades taught: Pre-Kindergarten, 1st Grade

Proudest teaching moment: I have the privilege of watching my students grow academically, emotionally, and spiritually. My students make me proud through their actions toward each other and their yearning to learn.

Teaching philosophy: Every child is capable of learning. It is important to establish a safe and loving learning environment. I believe in teaching character and responsibility in addition to academics.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Keeping up with the curriculum. With the curriculum continuously changing, it can feel overwhelming. We are working to overcome this challenge by attending workshops and professional development sessions where we can gain the knowledge and insight on how to adapt our lessons to fit the learning styles and needs of the children.


Bobi Glava

St. Martin’s Lutheran School, Annapolis

Degrees: Towson State University, BS; Western Maryland College (renamed Westminster University), MA

Years teaching at St. Martin’s: 25

Grades and subjects taught: 3rd grade (all subjects); Pre-Kindergarten (all subjects); Kindergarten (all subjects); Pre-K–3rd grade Social Studies, Science, Reading Reinforcement; ESL program tutor, Extended Day Care Coordinator, Summer Camp Director

Proudest teaching moment: My proudest teaching moments include visits from former students who return to share their achievements with me. One particular young lady, warmed my heart when she informed me that I had inspired her to become a teacher.

Teaching philosophy: I believe in, and I strive to teach the “whole” child. This goes far beyond just teaching the academics. Each child has the potential for success in school and in life, and it is my goal to unlock that potential.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Keeping up with all of the technological advances and trends in education. I strive to create and utilize a balance of “old” and “new” resources that enhance my students’ learning, and assist them in reaching their full potential.


Julie Guenther

School of the Incarnation, Gambrills

Degree: Christopher Newport University; Western Maryland College

Years teaching at Incarnation: 14 years

Grade taught: 1st grade

Proudest teaching moment: I have the good fortune of being able to see most of my students mature and grow over the years between first grade and the eighth grade. Every child I have ever taught holds a special place in my heart forever so whenever I see former students of mine be successful in any way, it makes me incredibly happy and proud.

Teaching philosophy: Writer and renowned twentieth century scientist Lewis Thomas once said, “We leave traces of ourselves wherever we go, on whatever we touch.” This quote is the foundation for my teaching philosophy. I am ever aware of the impression that I am leaving on these young lives and take great care to ensure that the impression left when they move on is one of kindness, caring, and faith.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? I have often heard teaching referred to as a “calling.” The job of an educator is very challenging indeed and balancing the demands of the job, time for planning, and time for one’s own family is often the toughest challenge. If you don’t feel “called,” you will likely not be in this field for very long. Luckily, I come from a long line of educators and everyone in my family is understanding about the demand that teaching places on my time.


JoEllen Gray

Elizabeth Seton High School, Bladensburg

Degrees: St. Francis University, BA–Mathematics; Catholic University, MA–Catholic School Administration

Years teaching at Elizabeth Seton: 17

Grades and subjects taught: 9th–12th grade Algebra 1 and 2, Geometry, Pre-Calculus, AP Calculus; College Algebra and Pre-Calculus

Proudest teaching moment: Walking through the halls of Seton every day, I never fail to feel very proud of all that we are doing for young women. But the times that probably make me most proud are those in which I see students doing more outside of class. 

Teaching philosophy: Learning has to be fun and engaging. Laughter should be heard in our classrooms. Our students should see us having fun with our material and enjoying the practice of our subjects. 

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Our students are growing up in a world that moves rapidly and often gives them what they want immediately. Unfortunately, learning doesn’t usually happen so quickly.  In addition to teaching subject matter, we are trying to teach patience and persistence—two qualities that don’t often jive with our world’s fast pace. 


R.E. “Rick” Reeves, Jr.

Dematha Catholic High School, Hyattsville

Degrees: University of North Carolina, BS–Biology (Human Reproductive); University of North Carolina, BS–Secondary Science Education; George Mason University, MS–Environmental Science, Toxicology

Years teaching at Dematha: 25

Grades and subjects taught: 9th–12th grade Biology, AP Environmental Science, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Biotechnology

Proudest teaching moment: My proudest teaching moment is when you see the “light” go off in a student and they have one of those “aha!” moments. It is very rewarding to know that something that has been a challenge for the student has finally “clicked.”

Teaching philosophy: My teaching philosophy is to help students see what they can do, not what they can’t. I work not to answer all their questions, but rather to give them the skills to find the answers to their questions for themselves. I think it is important that students get more than just content from a course, that they learn life lessons as well.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? To impress upon students that quicker is not always better and that they must persevere when they are faced with challenges in their academic work. To connect with students, teachers must show them they take an interest in the student as a person.


Adam Osborne

Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, Baltimore

Degrees: Kenyon College, BA–Drama with a concentration in American Studies; The College of William & Mary, MA–American Studies

Years teaching at Boys’ Latin: 9

Grades and subjects taught: 9th grade World Cultures; 11th–12th grade AP U.S. History, African American History Honors, American Crime

Proudest teaching moment: It’s an annual moment. At the end of the year our community gathers to “send off” the senior class. We line the walls of our gym, and each senior makes his way through the line to say goodbye to each teacher, administrator, upper school student, and senior parent. There are many hugs and quite a few tears.

Teaching philosophy: Make it fun. In whatever way possible it needs to have an element of mirth, and sometimes absurdity. History can be too full of gloom and war and greed. Without looking at the goofy and silly parts of our collective experience it can get downright depressing.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? I believe it’s trying to help a young person cultivate their internal motivation to be a learner, not just a student. I don’t want my guys to ‘do school’; I want them to be lifelong learners who take pride in their intellectual prowess and their curiosities.


Mary Ann Herron

Radcliffe Creek School, Chestertown

Degrees: University of the Arts, MA–Teaching, Art Education; Bowdoin College, BA–Studio Art

Years teaching at Radcliffe: 18

Grades and subjects taught: 3rd–4th grade Science, Social Studies; K–8th grade Art

Proudest teaching moment: My proudest teaching moments come from my everyday interactions with my students. When I see my students collaborating, sharing their visions, and taking the initiative to implement their ideas then I know I have been successful.

Teaching philosophy: Get students involved with their learning. I believe a teacher can reach a diverse population of learners by providing students with hands-on multi-sensory learning experiences as well as helping students develop their critical thinking skills through self-discovery and problem solving.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Being able to explore alternative learning opportunities for students when the educational system is so focused on accountability. I do think accountability has its place but teachers should also feel they have the freedom to explore new ideas and provide their students with the best educational environment to fit their student's learning style.


Millicent Sheets

The Country School, Easton

Degree: The University of Colorado, BA–Economics

Years teaching at current school: 11

Grades and subjects taught: K, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Science; 7th–8th Pre-Algebra; Coached Middle School and High School Girls Lacrosse

Proudest teaching moment: I do not have one moment. My proudest moments are when I am working with students, one on one or in a small group, and I see them make progress with a concept that is causing them difficulty.

Teaching philosophy: My philosophy is that all students should be seen as individuals. They should be respected and feel safe and comfortable in their learning environment. While it is important to hold them to high standards, it is equally as important to understand their learning style, their strengths and weaknesses, and the challenges they face outside of the classroom.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Helping parents and students develop a growth mindset and swing the focus from grades and accomplishment to process and effort.


Lynn Poore

Chestertown Christian Academy, Chestertown

Degree: Covington Theological Seminary

Years teaching at CCA: 9

Grades and subjects taught: 1st–6th grade all subjects; middle school Math, Science; high school Science

Proudest teaching moment: When I was very sick one year requiring an extended absence, the substitute wrote me a sweet letter explaining how well my class was trained to do their daily work. When she offered help they told her that Mrs. Poore wants us to take pride in our work and always do our best.

Teaching philosophy: Every student deserves a good education. They do not all learn the same way, so as an educator, I feel that it is my privilege to find the way that helps each individual meet their full potential.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Communication of expectations with parents is the biggest challenge for me. Parents are busy with work, family, and other responsibilities. They mean well, but things fall through the cracks. So as an educator, I email my parents weekly with a list of homework, tests, quizzes, and projects for the next week or more. It opens a line of communication that this generation uses well.


Vivienne Falanga

Kent School, Chestertown

Degrees: University Polytechnic East Anglia B.Ed. Honors Degree 

Years teaching at Kent: 17

Grades and subjects taught: Pre-school director and teacher; Kindergarten; 4th grade

Proudest teaching moment: Just last year I had a Facebook message from a student I taught in 1993. She took the time to connect with me, just to let me know that she remembered me as such a positive influence in her life and her favorite teacher ever.

Teaching philosophy: Maximum participation. I love to play games, involve movement, anything to increase the student’s understanding and motivate them.  

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Learning is a different process for all students; some need lots of repetition, others need a hands-on experience, some just need to be shown once. They all need to be believed in, challenged, respected, and loved.


Lisa Smith McCormack

Saints Peter and Paul School, Easton

Degrees: Salisbury State University, BS–Elementary Education; Walden University, MS–Teacher Leadership

Years teaching at SSPP: 27

Grades and subjects taught: 3rd grade Religion, Math, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts

Proudest teaching moment: The “ah ha” moments and when a student shares what they have learned at home and wants to learn more. When the student takes on being their own advocate to their learning.

Teaching philosophy: Learning is a working relationship, similar to a triangle, between the student, the parent, and the teacher. Everyone must do their part in order for the learning triangle to be strong and successful.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? I believe that technology is a blessing and a challenge in education. It is a blessing since technology is so intertwined in children’s lives today and students can use technology to become an active participant in their own learning. But I do believe that we need to remember that the old ways of learning are just as important such as reading books, drilling facts, handwriting cursive, and manuscript and spelling.


James Martinez

Wye River Upper School, Centreville

Degrees: Texas Tech, BFA–Photography; University of Delaware, MFA–Printmaking

Years teaching at Wye River: 13

Grades and subjects taught: 9th–12th grade Art I, Art II, Photography and Video, 3D Studio Arts, Faculty Leader for 21st Century classes

Proudest teaching moment: It’s not possible to choose just one. Its best described as the moments when you realize that you have helped a student. The earliest I can remember was in a drawing class. A student who was struggling with a project took the time to come to my office and we worked through a problem. I was just having fun doing what I like to do, art. It never occurred to me that the class meant so much more to her. The next day when she was obviously doing better and enjoying the class more I had that proud moment.

Teaching philosophy: Do whatever it takes to connect with your students. Once you have a connection you can lead them through anything. Teaching will evolve into collaboration rather than lecture.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? Technology and its application into the classroom. The challenge is finding a technology policy that pushes everyone just enough. Faculty and students all have different comfort levels. This requires a philosophy that allows for instant modification.


Ben Dize

Gunston School, Centreville

Degree: University of Maryland, BA; Towson State University, M.Ed.

Years teaching at current school: 16

Grades and subjects taught: 9th–12th grade Art

Proudest teaching moment: Tomorrow.

Teaching philosophy: My philosophy in teaching art is that I believe that almost anyone can learn to draw and paint to a level where they are enjoying what they are doing and can be proud of it.

What is the toughest challenge facing educators? One of the greatest challenges is one of relevancy. Making your particular course interesting and relevant to today’s technologically-distracted students is difficult. As a teacher, keeping up with the advances and changes brought on by the newest technology is an almost daily dilemma.