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Press Release: Finalists Named For The 2015-2016 Maryland Teacher Of The Year

For Immediate Release                     

Contact: Bill Reinhard, 410-767-0486, Dr. Darla Strouse, 410-767-0369

Baltimore, MD (September 2, 2015)

State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery today announced the names of seven finalists for 2015-2016 Maryland Teacher of the Year.

“Maryland teachers are among the nation’s finest, and the work of these outstanding finalists represents the sparkling creativity and energy found in classrooms through the State,” said Dr. Lowery.  “Maryland’s teachers offer our students world-class instruction, providing a passport to their future success.”

The finalists are: Dr. Stephanie Marchbank, Allegany County; Jennie Merrill, Anne Arundel County; Ryan Kaiser, Baltimore City; Amanda Portner, Frederick County; Stephanie Geddie, Howard County; Barbara Sutherland, Queen Anne’s County; and Sally Irwin, Washington County.

The finalists were selected by a panel of judges from key Maryland education organizations representing principals, teachers, school boards, teacher unions, parents and higher education. Finalists were measured against a rigorous set of national criteria that include teaching philosophy and results, community involvement, knowledge of general education issues, and suggestions for professional and instructional improvement.

The 2015-2016 Maryland Teacher of the Year will be announced during a gala reception and dinner at Martin’s West in Baltimore on October 9. The winner will receive cash awards, technology equipment, national travel opportunities, and a new car valued at more than $25,000, donated by the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association. 

Jody Zepp, a teacher at Long Reach High School in Howard County, is the current Maryland Teacher of the Year.  Maryland has had a history of national success with its Teacher of the Year Program.  Sean McComb, who recently ended his term as National Teacher of the Year, served as Maryland’s 2013-14 Teacher of the Year.  He is the third Maryland educator to receive the national honor since 2006.

Presenting sponsors of the Maryland Teacher of the Year Program are Comcast, the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, McDonald’s Family of Maryland, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems. Platinum sponsors are BGE, Lockheed Martin, Maryland Public Television, NTA Life and Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.

The Maryland Teacher of the Year will go on to compete for the esteemed National Teacher of the Year Award, to be announced next April. The winner will also spend the coming year as a speaker and advisor in Maryland. The Maryland Teacher of the Year will be honored by the President at the White House next spring and participate in several national meetings and conferences. 

Additional information on the seven 2015-16 finalists follows:

Allegany County - Dr. Stephanie Marchbank, English, Mountain Ridge High School

Stephanie Marchbank earned her Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership in 2015, her Master’s Degree in Administration and Supervision in 2006, and her second Bachelor’s Degree in English Education in 2001, all from Frostburg State University; she received her first Bachelor Degree in Language and Literature in 1993 from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.  She is her school’s ELA Instructional leader and has served as assessment coordinator and mentor teacher.  She is also a member of the School Improvement Team, Emergency Planning Team, public relations committee, and scholarship committee.  She worked as an adjunct university professor and volunteers in her church and as a PTO member.

Anne Arundel County - Jennie Merrill, Grade 5, Severna Park Elementary School

Jennie, a Nationally Board Certified teacher, earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English and Elementary Education from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) in 1999 and her Master’s Degree in Instructional Systems and Design from UMBC in 2005. Jennie served as Intermediate Team Leader, DI Mentor and Professional Development presenter. She is a member of the Educator Effectiveness Academy Team, School Improvement Team and S.T.E.M Team. She volunteers at her school’s annual variety show and as secretary of the Annapolis Striders Running Class. Awards include Severna Park P.T.A. Teacher of the Year, AA County Exemplary Program Award, Wal-Mart District Teacher of Year, and Severna Park Community Trustee Award.

Baltimore City – Ryan Kaiser, Social Studies, The Mount Washington School

Mr. Kaiser is a 6th- and 7th-grade social studies teacher at The Mount Washington School with more than 16 years of experience, including 10 years in Baltimore. He is also the school’s coach for the Baltimore Urban Debate League, a mentor teacher, and a teacher member of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization.  Outside the classroom, he writes middle school honors curriculum for City Schools, serves as the communications coordinator for the Maryland Council for Social Studies, and writes curriculum and lesson plans for teachers nationwide for the White House Visitor’s Center.  Ryan received his B.A. Degree in Elementary Education as well as his M.A. Degree in Elementary Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Frederick County – Amanda Portner, Literacy Specialist, Thurmont Middle School

As the Literacy Specialist at her school, Ms. Portner touches the lives of students and faculty daily.  She works with her students and teachers countywide to help improve achievement and instruction.  She inspires others with her contagious enthusiasm.  She conducts numerous professional workshops.  Amanda earned her B.S. in English Education from Shippensburg University, her M.S. in English Curriculum/Instruction, and her Administrative Certificate from Hood College.  She also has leadership roles with the Maryland Writing Project, the Black-Eyed Susan Reading committee and worked closely with MSDE during its transition to Common Core.

Howard County – Stephanie Geddie, Kindergarten Instructional Team Leader, Laurel Woods Elementary School

Stephanie earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Alabama State University in 1997 and a Master’s Degree from Johns Hopkins University in 2011 by completing a dual certificate program in Leadership in Family, School, & Community Collaboration and Administration & Supervision. Stephanie facilitates the Classroom-Focused Improvement Process and has served on numerous school teams, including School Improvement and Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports. Stephanie is co-founder of Building Blocks Network, a parent outreach program, and has been a teacher mentor to UMBC student interns. Awards include the 2015 Washington Post’s Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher, HCPSS Special Education Advisory Committee, and Baltimore Ravens’ 2014 Teacher of the Year nominee.

Queen Anne’s County – Barbara Sutherland, Biomedical Sciences -- Chemistry, Biology, Career Technology, Kent Island High School

With a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of New England and an M.A. in Instructional Systems Development from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Barbara Sutherland started a career in education after working five years in the biomedical field. Barbara’s belief that all students have the capability to learn and contribute motivates her to hold high academic standards in her Chemistry, Biology, and Career Technology Education courses as well as foster community service within her school. Developing the school’s Biomedical Sciences Program, advising to the school’s National Honor Society Chapter, and providing tutoring beyond the school day exemplifies Barbara’s leadership style: leading by example.

Washington County – Sally Irwin, Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Biomedical Science Teacher, Washington County Technical High School

Sally Irwin allows students to make real-world connections through project-based learning.  Irwin’s program was selected to showcase student projects at the 2015 Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus on Capitol Hill. She was nominated for the 2014 American School Board Journal Magna Award and received the Outstanding Career and Technology Program Award in 2011 from MSDE. A Master Teacher for Medical Interventions at Stevenson University, a PDP coach for PLTW and a presenter at elementary and middle school STEM nights, Sally demonstrates a passion for STEM education. She earned a B.S. in Medical Technology, a M.S. in Occupational Health and Safety Engineering, both from West Virginia University, and a M.A. in Teaching from Frostburg State University.

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