Western Heights Middle School social studies educator named Teacher of the Year

Katharine "Kate" Long is also Social Studies department leader and a member of the School Improvement Team

April 27, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER |
  • Western Heights Middle School social studies teacher Katharine Long is named Washington County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.
By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

Katharine "Kate" Long, 26, was named Washington County Public School's 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year Wednesday night, after only five years as an educator.

"I was very surprised and completely honored," the eighth-grade social studies teacher said of her initial reaction to receiving the award. "To be honest, I really didn't think that I would win."

Six people were named finalists for the title, which comes with a car from Hagerstown Honda/Hagerstown Kia to drive for an entire year.

Waiting for Long in the parking lot Wednesday was a Honda Accord, emblazoned with her new title "Teacher of the Year."

A selection committee narrowed the field of nominees down to six finalists based on an interview process and observing the teachers in the classroom.

Joining Long, who teaches at Western Heights Middle School, as finalists were:

  • Jaclyn Chaney, a fifth-grade magnet teacher at Fountaindale School for the Arts & Academic Excellence
  • David Herbert, a Smithsburg Middle School seventh-grade math teacher
  • Kimberly Janifer, a North Hagerstown High School English teacher
  • Rebecca Leverett, an enrichment teacher at Rockland Woods Elementary School
  • Tonya Meadows, a Boonsboro Middle School technology education teacher

Amid a barrage of hugs and congratulations given to Long by her colleagues and friends, Jaime Mason, the 2010 Teacher of the Year, slipped her a word of advice.

"I told her to take tomorrow and celebrate with her kids," Mason said. "I told her to just spend time enjoying her kids; they are going to be just as excited as she is tonight."

Hearing comments from her students — which were read as part of her introduction — praising her as an educator validates what she brings to her job, Long said.

Being a teacher was not something she planned to do, she said.

Rather, it was something that was always a part of her, a desire to help students achieve and succeed, she said.

Throughout her five years of teaching — all which have been spent in Washington County — Long said she has not yet done anything particularly stellar.

But the recognition she received Wednesday will be something to spur her onward, pushing her students to achieve the goals she knows they can reach, Long said.

Long will compete for Maryland Teacher of the Year among winners from other counties, said Master of Ceremonies Thomas B. Riford, who is also president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In addition to teaching, Long serves as Social Studies department leader and is a member of the School Improvement Team at Western Heights, according to information from the school system.

She has opened her classroom to observations from high school and college students pursuing a career in education. Long was also part of a select group of Western Maryland educators in the three-year Gilder Lehrman Teaching American History grant.  

Long, who is a native of Williamsport, said she has no plans of ever leaving Washington County Public Schools.

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