HAGERSTOWN — Christina Hammer-Atkins would be the first to say that she is rarely ever rendered speechless, but she was Wednesday night.
Hammer-Atkins was named the 2012-13 Washington County Teacher of the Year before a crowd of about 200 people, including many of her colleagues, at the annual recognition dinner at Fountain Head Country Club in Hagerstown.
The second-grade teacher from Boonsboro Elementary School was selected out of five finalists for the prestigious award, which is sponsored each year by the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
“This honor means so much to me in terms of that I feel like I have accomplished the goals that I’ve set out to do in my teaching career, and that is to be an outstanding teacher,” Hammer-Atkins said. “I feel that I only represent one of many, many fabulous teachers in Washington County .... It’s a very humbling honor.”
Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox, who announced the winner, said he was most impressed by Hammer-Atkins’ ability to engage her students in the classroom.
Wilcox recalled a visit to her classroom when he first came on board as superintendent. Hammer-Atkins was dressed in a “head-to-toe banana suit” because it was important to get the kids’ attention to help them understand the lesson, he said.
“The young people in (her) classroom just hang on her every word,” Wilcox said.
As this year’s winner, Hammer-Atkins received a check for $500, plus a $5,000 classroom upgrade package and the use of a brand new 2012 Honda Accord for a year, courtesy of Hagerstown Honda.
Hammer-Atkins, who has taught for seven years in the county and 17 years total, said she hopes to purchase some Kindles or iPads for her students.
“I would like to have technology ... and be able to share it with my colleagues because I want all students in our school to benefit; not just myself,” she said.
A previous nominee for Teacher of the Year and Science Teacher of the Year, Hammer-Atkins will now move on to the represent the county at the Maryland Teacher of the Year awards later this year.
Brien J. Poffenberger, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, said Washington County’s award is unique from the other 23 counties across Maryland because it’s the only one that is sponsored by the county’s chamber of commerce.
“Today’s students are tomorrow’s workers, so we take this time out every year to celebrate education,” Poffenberger said.
In her address prior to the announcement, the 2011-12 honoree, Katharine Long of Western Heights Middle School, said she looked back on the past year as “the most rewarding” of her career.
The other finalists included Allen Haines of Boonsboro Middle, Sally Irwin of Washington County Technical High, Heather McEndree of Western Heights Middle and Katie Rubeck of Rockland Woods Elementary.
Haines, a physical education teacher, has been with Washington County Public Schools for 26 years. He is a past Teacher of the Year nominee, and has been part of demonstration school and teacher awards from the Maryland Association for Health, Physical Education Recreation and Dance.
Irwin, who teaches as part of Project Lead the Way Biomedical Science, has taught in county public schools for eight years. She is also a past Teacher of the Year nominee.
Last year, she received the Outstanding Career and Technology Program Award from the Maryland State Department of Education Division of Career and College Readiness.
McEndree, a music teacher, began her career a decade ago in Frederick County, where she was named Outstanding First Year Teacher. She has taught in Washington County for the past four years.
She has been published in Music Educators Journal in the past, and another article will be published this year.
Rubeck, a first-grade teacher, has taught in the county for five years and serves as the coordinator of the Olweus Bullying Prevention program at Rockland Woods.