Funkstown, Grace Academy instructors claim Teacher of the Year honors

April 23, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- Shanna Byrd won't have to disappoint 21 children today.

Instead they'll have a doughnut and apple juice party to celebrate that their teacher was named Washington County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.

"Thank you for not making me have to teach them the life lesson tomorrow that it's OK to lose," Byrd told about 200 people gathered at the Educators of the Year awards banquet Wednesday. The event, sponsored by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, was at Fountain Head Country Club.

Washington County's private school teacher of the year, Ellen Brown, of Grace Academy, also was named. She is in her sixth year at the Hagerstown school and teaches fourth grade.


Byrd is a second grade magnet teacher at Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education, and is in her second year at the school. She previously taught for four years in Frederick County, Md.

Byrd, who will receive the use of a new car from Hagerstown Honda for a year, said she was shocked at being named the county's top public school teacher.

"I'm so glad I don't have to tell my kids that I lost," she said. "We just have a great time every day."

Byrd said she is not sure why she was chosen, but describes herself as "quirky" and said she does things a bit differently in her classroom. Her students sing, dance and cheer. There is a large focus on group work and projects.

"And I learn from them, too," she said. "They really are my kids."

Nominations for public school teacher of the year were solicited from students, parents, community organizations, businesses, colleagues and administrators. Candidates had to be full-time classroom, resource or media teachers who spend most of their time teaching, and must have at least five years of teaching experience and must continue teaching during the next school year.

Like Byrd, Brown said she was shocked by the win. Brown will receive the use of a new car from Hagerstown Ford for one year.

"I'm very humble," she said. "Very honored."

Brown, who has six children with her husband of almost 30 years, Barry, said she shares the award with her husband.

Her husband, who taught in Washington County, knows the joys and frustrations of teaching, Ellen Brown said. She said he has been very supportive of her career.

"God has used other people to help equip me to educate children," she said.

The 2007 private school Teacher of the Year was Julie Baker, who works at Maryland Correctional Training Center. Last year's Washington County Public Schools Teacher of the Year was Gwen Pangborn, a kindergarten teacher at Smithsburg Elementary School.

Byrd will advance to the state level for further recognition and consideration as Maryland's Teacher of the Year. In addition to the use of a new car, she also will receive a technology package from the school system and cash awards.

Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the essences of a great teacher -- including passion, high expectations and a strong sense of duty to get results -- are found in Byrd.

"The art of teaching is in the heart and soul of a teacher," Morgan said.

Byrd said her students were sure she would win and had been crossing their fingers for weeks. She was not so sure.

"I am completely shocked," she said.

As they would say in her class in learning cottage No. 7 at Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education, "Holy smokes" and "Hot diggity dog."

Washington County Public Schools Teacher of the Year finalists

  • Shanna Byrd, second grade magnet teacher at Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education

  • Tameron Marriner, kindergarten teacher at Eastern Elementary

  • Joan Myers, eighth-grade language arts teacher at Clear Spring Middle School

  • F. Martin Nikirk, advanced computer applications teacher at Washington County Technical High School

  • Jacqueline Row, physical education teacher at Williamsport High School

  • Gretchen Smith, advanced placement and international baccalaureate social studies teacher at North Hagerstown High School

    Washington County private schools Teacher of the Year finalists

  • Keith Bell, St. Maria Goretti High School

  • Ellen Brown, Grace Academy

  • Robert Cooper, Maryland Correctional Training Center

  • Laurie Hall, Grace Academy

  • Mary Haberkorn, Head Start of Washington County

  • Beverly Shaffer, Heritage Academy

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