2016 What's Up? Teachers: Meet inspirational leaders in the classroom
Jan 15, 2016 11:33AM ● Published by James Houck
Each January for the past several years, What’s Up? publications have published the annual Private School Guide, introducing readers to the wealth of education options available throughout our region. 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. —James Houck
Anne HartmanAnnapolis Area Christian School, Upper School Campus, Severn
Years teaching at AACS: 9
Grades and subjects taught: 12th grade English, Honors 12th grade English, AP Literature and Composition
Proudest teaching moment? Seeing students understand, enjoy, and value Hamlet, and realize that they can read Shakespeare.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: Education leads students into knowledge of themselves and others, and equips them to be active agents of change and renewal in a world that is full of broken systems and relationships. I want my students to learn how to look beyond themselves in order to seek truth, serve others, and steward all aspects of the material and cultural world we live in.
Toughest challenge educators face today? The right end of education is meaningful and creative action in the world—not grades, test scores, college acceptance, or self-esteem. Educators have to work against the tendency to see and treat students as passive receptors and regurgitators of knowledge rather than active learners who are capable of deep understanding and meaningful action.
“Anne is, without a doubt, a master teacher. Her knowledge of the discipline of English combined with an exceptional overarching concept of the purpose and goals of the educational process truly distinguish Anne among her peers.”—Robert J. McCollum, Upper School Principal
Regina O’HaraArchbishop Spalding High School, Severn
Years teaching at Spalding: 9
Grades and subjects taught: 11th grade Honors American Literature, 12th grade Honors Major British Writers, 10–12th grades Creative Writing, 11–12th grades Math and Critical Reading, and Drama & Drama II (all grade levels)
Proudest teaching moment? To see that moment of realization appear on my students’ faces when they personally connect to a lesson, and they finally become aware that education is more than just what they can learn from a book.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: Every student has the potential to obtain greatness. As teachers, it is our duty and calling to encourage that greatness however it may manifest itself.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Educators losing the passion they once had for the profession over time. It’s easy to get lost in the minutia of the day-to-day. Through reflection and mindfulness, I try to challenge myself to stay fresh, and to see the face of God in each of my students.
“Regina has taught students at all levels and has made her classroom an engaging and inspiring place where students feel valued and appreciated. She is a true educator in every sense of the word.” —Lewis Van Wambeke, Principal
Dr. Ken WilsonThe Gunston School, Centreville
Years teaching at Gunston: 6
Grades and subjects taught: 9–12th grades Physics, Robotics
Proudest teaching moment? We have an extracurricular activity (near space balloon club) that I mentor. The students send a payload of cameras, sensors, and tracking beacons 12 to 18 miles above the Earth. My proudest moment was watching club members present results to middle school students. Their goal was to encourage excitement about hands-on science projects and they succeeded, but they also got to experience the joy of teaching something cool to a receptive audience.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: As a teacher with ADHD and dyslexia, my first goal is to make science accessible to all learners. I tell them that everyone has challenges, whether they have names or not. I try to model for my students working around their challenges and taking advantage of their strengths. Next I try to convey my sense of awe that it is possible to do a few calculations on a sheet of paper and describe how the universe works. Finally, I believe that most students underestimate what they can achieve through dedication and hard work. It’s often my job to be the cheering section for them as they discover that they can do more than they thought they could.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Keeping up with the exponential growth in knowledge and information. Now more than ever, it is more important to teach students how to learn and how to think critically than it is to teach them a collection of facts. Hands-on experience makes the knowledge real to them and puts the emphasis on using it.
“Dr. Wilson’s unique gifts include his deep passion for Science, his patient and supportive style, his ability to connect with young people, his capacity to foster his students’ ownership in their own learning, and his support of extracurricular activities that help students to apply their scientific knowledge in a real world context.”—John A. Lewis, IV, Headmaster
Jennifer MalachowskiIndian Creek School, Crownsville
Years teaching at Indian Creek: 17 years (7 as full-time teaching faculty; 10 as Associate Head of Middle School)
Grades and subjects taught: English, Spanish, 7th grade Math, and Pre-Algebra
Proudest teaching moment? My proudest and best moments are, in fact, comprised of a series of small moments. It’s the look that comes across a student’s face when she finally “gets it.” It’s the high five in the afternoon as students are leaving for the day. It’s these and thousands more simple and yet impactful moments with students.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: Inspire, Innovate, and Instill—these three words encompass the essence of my philosophy of teaching. Inspire students to find the best in themselves. Be innovative in my teaching practices. Instill in students a “can do” attitude.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Creating well rounded students academically, socially, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Working with students to have a growth mindset is the key. Teaching students that through dedication and effort the most basic abilities can be developed while innate talent in a particular area is just a jumping off point.
“Jennifer is an expert classroom teacher and a respected school administrator. What sets Jennifer apart from other teachers is the impact she has had on the entire school community through her work leading the development and implementation of the Indian Creek School blended learning program, BLinc.”—Mary Mannix, Associate Head for Academics
Dylan LewisThe Key School, Annapolis
Years teaching at Key: 6
Grades and subjects taught: 5–12th grades, Math, Calculus, Algebra, Physical Education; also currently coaches Varsity Boys Soccer and Middle School Tennis
Proudest teaching moment? It’s very difficult to think of one particular moment. I always feel a sense of pride when students leave my class and say “thank you.”
Summarize your teaching philosophy: I believe the authentic connections made with students are at the core of my teaching philosophy. I once heard a quote that “students learn best if they like their teacher and they think their teacher likes them.”
Toughest challenge educators face today? Finding the balance between meeting our students’ emotional needs and their educational needs in an ever-changing world. Additionally, I think we are on the cusp of a change in how education is approached in this country. Skill development, rather than content, will be prioritized, and our educational system will have to adapt accordingly.
“Dylan strikes a perfect balance, both in the classroom and on the field, maintaining very high standards and clear expectations while making sure to infuse joy into the children’s work while celebrating their intelligence and capacity. Dylan truly serves as a role model Key students revere and respect.”—Matthew Nespole, Head of School
Daria BennettLighthouse Christian Academy, Stevensville
Years teaching at LCA: 6
Grades and subjects taught: 4th grade Bible, History, Literature, Math, Science, Spelling, and Grammar
Proudest teaching moment? I have proud teaching moments on a daily basis; when my students don’t want the day to end because they are enjoying a lesson, or story we are studying, when a student who struggles volunteers to take a leadership role in class, when I take my students on a field trip, and they enthusiastically make connections with what they see/hear during the trip with what they previously learned in class.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: All children should be given the tools necessary for success in the classroom. As children learn differently, it is important to make learning fun, and to create an excitement and a passion for learning. Storytelling, visual aids, role playing, and hands-on activities are ways to reach all students. Teachers and parents must partner together in order for students to reach their full potential.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Federal and state mandated curriculum driven by test scores, Common Core, and the latest classroom trends. Thankfully, at Lighthouse Christian Academy we do not follow Common Core, nor is our curriculum geared to improving test scores. With the Classical model, students are fully immersed in each subject area, and develop critical thinking skills based on a Biblical worldview.
“Ms. Bennett instills a love for learning and a great work ethic in her students, as well as encouraging the entire student body to always be their best. Ms. Bennett is an exemplary example of a ‘teacher who goes above and beyond her classroom duties to not only educate and inspire her students, but engage the school community as a whole.’”—Linda Whiting
Linda JanikowskyRockbridge Academy, Millersville
Years teaching at Rockbridge: 13
Grades and subjects taught: 9th grade Geometry and 12th grade Calculus
Proudest teaching moment? Rockbridge Academy began 20 years ago and has graduated 12 senior classes in those years. I had the privilege to teach all those seniors at least once. Watching them walk across the stage each year at graduation, well prepared and eager, is my greatest joy and privilege.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: Students need wisdom and discernment to navigate life and life choices in a complex and confusing world. Students need to be grounded in truth and guided by truth as they seek to grow in knowledge and wisdom.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Facts and skills are a poor substitute for wisdom and character. We have become very utilitarian in our education system today; valuing high SAT scores and admission to the “right” college en route to the best paying job, so we can enjoy the greatest number of life experiences. These things are not unimportant but they should not be the goal of education. I try to teach my students to love learning.
“Linda daily invests in the lives of students inside and outside of the classroom. She is best known for her commitment to Christ, her engaging love for math, her wit, and the way she creates loving bonds with her students!”—Denise Hollidge, Interim Grammar School Principal/Director of Instruction
Carrie BallSevern School, Severna Park
Years teaching at Severn: 8
Grades and subjects taught: 7th grade Science
Proudest teaching moment? I am particularly proud when I see a student take the initiative and ask for extra help outside of class. It is always a pleasure working with students individually or in small groups to help them overcome a challenge.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: Students of all ages feed off of the energy and enthusiasm that the instructor brings to the classroom. Therefore, I think it is imperative for educators to be passionate about their work. The students should see that the teacher is excited about the content and genuinely believes that the material is valuable.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Today’s students are accustomed to having answers at their fingertips. Therefore, as educators, we need to encourage students to ask lots of questions and think critically about the answers they receive. We can often find the answers we need so long as we know which questions to ask.
“Carrie is able to blend delivery of a rigorous curriculum, high academic standards, and a caring approach to students; she has reached and inspired kids for many years. Every day, Mrs. Ball works hard to make the experience for her students worthwhile and the quality of Severn School the best it can be.”—Douglas Lagarde, Headmaster
Jewel HillSt. Anne’s School of Annapolis
Years teaching at St. Anne’s: 9
Grades and subjects taught: Pre-K–5th grades Reading, Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies
Proudest teaching moments? There are hundreds of proud moments in teaching that occur over and over each new year. First graders often come to school with hopes and dreams of reading a book for the first time. The magical moment when a six-year-old says, “I can read” is a feeling like none other for student and teacher.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: Children, family, community members, and teachers are capable and resourceful. Therefore, those who have the ability to do so are responsible for providing the optimum environment for the child socially, emotionally, and cognitively. I am one person in a child’s life working together with others to present opportunities for observing, exploring, creating, researching, and so much more. How do we encourage this eagerness for knowledge? By providing stimulating materials, inviting environments, and opportunities to think critically and express ideas.
Toughest challenge educators face today? A continual examination of self and optimum strategies for meeting the individual needs of each student while uniting the class community into a cohesive group.
“Ms. Hill embraces her classroom culture, achieving her goal of knowing each learner thoroughly and in context of others. As a result, her students benefit from her constant, measured tweaks to continually improve, refine, and differentiate instruction.” —Lisa Nagel, Head of School
Jon VarsSaint Andrew’s United Methodist Day School, Edgewater
Years teaching at Saint Andrew’s: 13
Grades and subjects taught: Pre-K–8th grades Garden Director, K–5th grades Religion, 6–8th grades Physical Education/Athletic Director, 5th grade Math and Social Studies, 5–8th grades Stock Market Game Director, Head Coach Middle School Soccer, Girls Basketball, Girls Lacrosse, and Elementary Flag Football
Proudest teaching moment? The 5th grade Giza Complex was a highlight because it was a Social Studies and Math project that involved learning all about the Complex and building it to scale on the classroom floor. It engaged the students in ways that produced questions and discussion that resulted in more learning than I expected.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: I believe that learning through activities that involve the students Mind, Body, and Spirit.
Toughest challenge educators face today? I think the toughest challenge for educators is to develop lessons that activate students’ minds into deeper learning.
“Jon is the coordinator of our Garden program and the religious education instructor to our students in Kindergarten through 5th grade. Along with the children, Jon oversees the care of our animals and gardens, and facilitates their use by our faculty. He encourages and inspires our students with his unwavering patience and calm demeanor.”—Mark Wagner, Head of School
Teri KotkiewiczSt. Martin’s in-the-Field Episcopal School, Severna Park
Years teaching at St. Martin’s: 4
Grades and subjects taught: 6–8th grades Mathematics, Pre-Algebra, and Geometry
Proudest teaching moment? I love it when students show enthusiasm for their work. My proudest moment was when students asked, “Can we work through lunch on our projects?” I knew at that moment that the students were enjoying what they were doing and understood the importance of completing their work.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: Learning has to be fun and relevant. Students learn better when they see real-life examples of why today’s lessons are important now or in the future.
Toughest challenge educators face today? I think keeping students engaged and interested when the subject matter is not “exciting” is a challenge. For Math courses, this is particularly difficult since many students do not always see the need for practicing their skills. I often ask the students, “How do they get better at soccer, lacrosse, or basketball, etc.?” They all answer, “Practice.” To keep the students engaged, I often “flip” my classroom teaching and have the students explain concepts and provide working examples to help other students.
“Teri is an innovative and inspiring educator who leads her 6th through 8th grade students to discover that math is all around them, endlessly intriguing, and applicable in all sorts of real-world situations. The character traits that Teri exemplifies and asks for in her students are hard work, curiosity, and humor.”—James W. Hein, Head of School
Carol ThoemkeSt. Martin’s Lutheran School of Annapolis, Annapolis
Years teaching at St. Martin’s Lutheran: 18
Grades and subjects taught: Pre-K–8th grades Art
Proudest teaching moment? I am very proud that some of my former students have gone on to top art schools in the country, even becoming art teachers! I am also proud when former students are selected to exhibit their work in local gallery exhibitions. And lastly, I love hearing my students say, “Art is my favorite subject.”
Summarize your teaching philosophy: I want to teach children the variety of materials and their wide uses so they can experiment in lots of different methods. I strive to encourage and nourish a child’s own artistic slant without enforcing my own view and style on the students.
Toughest challenge educators face today? In my opinion, for Art teachers, the toughest challenges are resources. Schools are trimming budgets and arts programs. As an Art teacher, I work hard to advocate the importance of the Arts in a child’s overall education. More and more, we art teachers are promoting not STEM, but STEAM—Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math.
“St. Martin’s Lutheran School’s halls are lined with wonderful, creative artwork by our students under the direction of the art teacher, Mrs. Carol Thoemke. She believes every child has an inner artistic ability and she encourages their creative minds.”—James D. Moorhead, Head of School
John BuzzelliSt. Mary’s Elementary School, Annapolis
Years teaching at St. Mary’s: 18
Grades and subjects taught: 6th grade Mathematics and Social Studies
Proudest teaching moment? Over the past few years I have been able to share my love of gardening with my students. They learn about Math, Science, and Social Studies, while watching their fruit and vegetable seedlings grow from tiny seeds to full-grown plants. There is nothing better than having students ask to try cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, and radishes that they have grown themselves. It reminds me of picking and eating strawberries on the farm during my childhood [in Ohio].
Summarize your teaching philosophy: My teaching philosophy is to establish a high standard of academic achievement while guiding the students to become self-directed learners. I strive to create an atmosphere that allows students to be successful while not being afraid to learn from their mistakes.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Classrooms are full of students with diverse learning styles. The biggest challenges I have faced involved addressing those various learning styles in ways that promote each student’s individual voice while helping them become self-directed learners.
“Mr. Buzzelli is a master teacher who consistently goes above and beyond as an educator and colleague. It is rare to find an educator that garners the respect of students, teachers and parents alike. Mr. Buzzelli is truly one of a kind and a role model for his students.” —Rebecca M. Zimmerman, Principal
Sarah GreenfieldThe Summit School, Edgewater
Years teaching at Summit: 5
Grades and subjects taught: 2nd grade Social Studies, Science, and English, 2–3rd grades Language Arts, Math
Proudest teaching moment? A first grade student started my class with virtually no recognition of letters. Two months into the school year he was starting to make sense of the sounds that make up words. He very proudly announced “My name is [child’s name], I am the boy who can read.” It is gratifying to watch students accomplish and want to achieve more.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: Creating a warm, inviting, and hands on environment that is engaging and customized for each student learning style and abilities.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Differentiating curriculum to meet the needs of all students is the most difficult challenge for educators today. Every student has individual needs and ways of learning. Educators have to customize and be creative in their lesson presentation to meet each student’s need, while meeting state standards.
“Sarah is the teacher every parent hopes to have for their child and she is an inspiration to her peers. When Sarah talks about children and her work with them, her eyes sparkle with excitement. Her colleagues marvel at the transformation that takes place each year turning out happy, confident, and successful young readers, mathematicians, and authors who are ready for whatever comes next! And what comes next will be fabulous thanks to the unparalleled professionalism and dedication of Sarah Greenfield!” —Dr. Joan Mele-McCarthy, Executive Director
Michelle CerinoKent School, Chestertown
Years teaching at Kent: 10
Grades and subjects taught: 6th grade Homeroom, Language Arts, Literature, and History, 7th grade Geography, Coach Field Hockey and Lacrosse Proudest teaching moment? I don’t have one single moment that I would consider my proudest. Every day there is something that makes me proud to be a part of these students’ lives; modeling good citizenship, lending support and encouragement, or just being their cheerleader.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: To learn as much from the students as they learn from you. As a teacher, it is not only my job to teach students new academic content, study skills, good work habits, and citizenship, but it is also my job to listen to them and observe everything they do. It is my job to be an enabler and a coach. I create relationships based on mutual respect and caring. In doing so I build a high-trust relationship with students, and in a class where students feel safe and secure, true learning can really take place. By really listening to students and carefully observing their behaviors and learning styles, a teacher can instinctually adapt questioning techniques, activities, and strategies to ensure all students are engaged. I am proud to say that as long as I am a teacher, I will also be a student.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Inspiring students, keeping students engaged, differentiating instruction, limiting distractions in the classroom, finding time to do all those other things we are required to do, and understanding changing technology.
“Michelle actively pursues professional development annually and enthusiastically introduces new material and teaching tools to her students. She brings joy into her classroom every day and delights in her students’ academic and personal successes.”—Tricia Cammerzell, Director of Admissions and Development
Catherine BushbyRadcliffe Creek School, Chestertown
Years teaching at Radcliffe: 18
Grades and subjects taught: Middle School (students are ability grouped) Language Arts, Literature, and Drama
Proudest teaching moment? Choosing a proudest teaching moment is an impossible task. I’m proud of my students on a daily basis. I hope my proudest moment can one day be when I look back on all the lives I have hopefully touched and positively affected.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: I believe in teaching to each student’s strengths and interests. If one way doesn’t work, I’m going to try another way because there is a way to get it in there. It’s challenging and rewarding to find the right way for each student. I love teaching them to recognize how they learn so that they are more empowered in the classroom. Then I get to watch the lightbulb come on, and nothing beats that.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Overwhelmed is always the word that has come to mind when I consider what many teachers go through, especially in public school settings. When one considers the great variety of learning differences out there, to effectively address the needs of a large group is a tremendous challenge. Fortunately, here at Radcliffe the classes are small enough that I can truly address the needs of each individual student I teach.
“Catherine’s teaching philosophy truly exemplifies The Radcliffe Way.”—Laura Kurz, Director of Admissions and Marketing
Mary LeveSaints Peter & Paul Elementary School, Easton
Years teaching at Saints Peter & Paul: 25
Grades and subjects taught: Elementary Religion, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies
Proudest teaching moment? When past students return to share with me their accomplishments. It makes me so proud to know that I may have helped them on their way and they are willing to take time to come back to share with me.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: Basically my teaching philosophy is that an educator needs to be more than an imparter of information. I feel it is my responsibility to not only teach information but also help my students become life-long learners.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Time! There are so many wonderful ideas and concepts that we want to teach to our students but the time to do so is limited. As expectations on teachers increases the time each of those objectives has must decrease. Also our students are so busy outside of school that sometimes school work is not a priority in the scheme of things. I try hard to teach my students to prioritize their schedules and try to practice the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, temperance, which is everything in moderation.
“Mary is very enthusiastic, highly energetic, and always creative in her teaching methods and she is greatly appreciated by both her students and their parents. Mary is committed to her students; she constantly strives to reach each one as an individual and point them towards success in their studies and, ultimately, their lives.”—Connie Webster, Elementary Principal
Sharon SpenceSaints Peter and Paul High School, Easton
Years teaching at Saints Peter and Paul: 14
Grades and subjects taught: Spanish I–IV, AP Spanish Language and Culture
Proudest teaching moment? There is no single moment that stands out. As teachers we are blessed with many moments when students grasp a concept or are able to apply what they have learned to produce an original piece of work.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: “Structured variety” would summarize how I approach teaching. In order to meet the varied learning styles of students, teachers must present material in a variety of ways. I believe that learning other languages should be challenging yet practical, engaging, and fun.
Toughest challenge educators face today? I truly believe the toughest challenge for educators and support staff nationwide is that students come to school today with more emotional, physical, social, behavioral, and economic issues than ever before. In my personal teaching environment my greatest challenge is technology. We have a love/hate relationship. I am trying to embrace the benefits of technology in the classroom, yet remain cautious.
“Sharon is one of the best teachers I have had the privilege of witnessing in my career. She is exceedingly well prepared, engages students from bell to bell, and makes the acquisition of a foreign language, which can be daunting for some, a truly enjoyable experience. I cannot say enough about the dedication to her craft and her devotion to her students that Sharon possesses. She is truly one of the best educators and people I have ever seen.”—James E. Nemeth, Principal
Gina BrentThe Country School, Easton
Years teaching at Country: 17
Grades and subjects taught: K–4th grades Art
Proudest teaching moment? When parents thank me for instilling a love of art early on in their child’s lives, as their child continues to pursue art in college.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: I believe every child can succeed when solid foundations are provided for students to build from. This makes it easier for students to make educated choices after they have been educated.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Technology! Fortunately, it’s a lot easier when teaching K–4 Art. At this age, they are so eager to learn, they’re not as concerned with the finished product. They enjoy the actual hands-on experience with using the materials of clay, paint, crayons, etc. They can’t experience that in front of a computer screen. So, once I provide students the basic foundations of using colors, shapes, lines, etc., they’ll have a better understanding when using technology.
“Gina is one of our most dedicated, versatile, creative, and upbeat faculty members. You can’t miss Gina most mornings in her fluorescent safety vest, opening car doors for arriving students and greeting them with her luminous smile. During school hours, Gina broadens her students’ horizons through a wide range of projects (such as drawing, painting, weaving, and 3-D art), as well as art history and appreciation—in a fun and age-appropriate way. Gina ends her day supervising the school’s aftercare program, where students who don’t even need aftercare want to go just to see what fun Mrs. Brent has in store! Teachers like Gina Brent are the reason that TCS students genuinely love coming to school.”—Neil Mufson, Headmaster
Kimberleigh NicholsWye River Upper School, Centreville
Years teaching at Wye River: 6
Grades and subjects taught: High School Spanish, English, and Music.
Proudest teaching moment? Seeing students truly be changed when we visited the Dominican Republic on a service learning trip and personally delivered water filters to families, working alongside my former Dominican students. Not only did they get to use their Spanish and enjoy helping others, but they realized it’s about making relationships and serving together in a way that honors everyone; they learned to humbly receive hospitality.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: Every student is gifted. It’s our privilege to help them notice what their gifts are, learn from them, appreciate them, and encourage and celebrate the gifts we see.
Toughest challenge educators face today? As a general rule, so many kids fly under the radar, and teachers don’t have enough energy or time to truly reach each one. I’m blessed to work in a school where every student is noticed and cared for, and I love that, but I wish it wasn’t the exception to the rule.
“Kimberleigh is a dedicated teacher who goes above and beyond her duties daily and year after year. She uses her talents in music to help teach students with learning differences absorb the Spanish language. Kim capitalizes on the creative strengths of our students in music class and gets them up and performing in front of others on a regular basis. Kim also helps lead faculty in how to effectively teach students organization and study skills.”—Chrissy Aull, Founding Executive Director
Molly MullallyBoys’ Latin School of Maryland, Baltimore
Years teaching at Boys’ Latin: 16
Grades and subjects taught: 11–12th grade Mathematics
Proudest teaching moment? Winning the Faculty Mentoring Award in 2014. I was given this award by the Senior class.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: Teaching is about building relationships. I am on a constant quest to know what makes each of my students tick. Once I know them, I can motivate them to do their very best. I try to lecture little, and let the students live mathematics as much as possible.
Toughest challenge educators face today? My toughest challenge is wrestling with the bombardment of images in the digital age. I have recently had to come down hard on cell phones in my classroom. I believe it is imperative for us to have time to relate to one another without screens. I hope that, ultimately, my students will appreciate the connections that will ensue as a result of our screen-free discussions.
“Molly has this extraordinary way of taking the most complex of concepts and breaking it down into bite-sized, understandable pieces. Perhaps informed by her own love for the beauty and art of math, Molly wills students to not just learn math skills but to love learning math.”—Christopher J. Post, Headmaster
Dana CunninghamElizabeth Seton High School, Bladensburg
Years teaching at ES: 5
Grades and subjects taught: 11th grade AP Language and Composition, 12th grade Seminar: The Dystopian Novel, 11th grade Elements of Effective Writing
Proudest teaching moment? I always feel a sense of pride when a student comes into class excitedly telling me about how they found a connection of a lesson I’ve taught to something in their lives or something they’ve witnessed.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: I strongly believe in the education of the whole person, not just a student. I think students should feel empowered and comfortable so that they are engaged and learning, whether they realize it or not.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Because this generation of students is so up-to-date on news and technology is so readily available to them, it’s getting harder to stay relevant and keep them interested in what, to them, seems outdated. I work hard to listen to my students’ ideas and concerns, and I try to keep in mind that they are used to a fast-paced lifestyle. I try to adapt by keeping my lessons interactive and reciprocal.
“Dana is known to students, colleagues, and administrators as one who always steps up to offer the best of herself as teacher, coach, and leader. She is truly an example of our school motto: light to know and grace to do.”—Sister Ellen Marie Hagar, President
James RoperDeMatha Catholic High School, Hyattsville
Years teaching at DeMatha: 34
Grades and subjects taught: all five levels of band and percussion ensemble; choral director for first 15 years; currently Wind Ensemble and Concert Band II
Proudest teaching moment? I am always very proud when I watch my students walk across the altar at the Basilica of the Shine of the Immaculate Conception at graduation each year. I am also humbled when alumni come back and tell me what they are doing in life and how I have made a positive impact on them.
Summarize your teaching philosophy: My musical goal for each of my students is for them to become independent musicians who can read and interpret music on their own. My goal for them personally is for them to be independent young men who can think for themselves and be responsible, generous men in society when they leave DeMatha.
Toughest challenge educators face today? Educators are constantly faced with new challenges when it comes to teaching our students. In my opinion, the most successful educators are ones who have learned how to adapt yet have stayed grounded in their personal belief that we must do what we can to continue to reach out and educate these young men and women.
“Mr. Roper’s goal is to have all his students become independent musicians, whether they become professional musicians or not. He inspires them to understand their role in society as leaders and gentlemen. He understands that playing a musical instrument is one of the few classes that they will take that will exercise both sides of their brain.”—Dr. Daniel J. McMahon, Principal