SALISBURY — Lauren Monroe, a prekindergarten teacher at the Wicomico Early Learning Center (WELC) who dedicates herself to creating a successful start in school and life for her 4- and 5-year-old students, was honored as the 2014-2015 Wicomico Teacher of the Year at last week’s annual Wicomico Teacher of the Year Banquet at the Commons at Salisbury University.
Monroe’s nominator wrote that, “I have never seen a teacher be successful in leading young children [4-year-olds] in intensive inquiry projects until I met Lauren. She has taught her children independence and instilled confidence so they are safe to take risks and make mistakes as they learn. Her children are writing and they create their own artwork. Lauren instills in them a sense of ownership and power which frees them to achieve their full potential.”
The new Teacher of the Year began her year in style, arriving at the Wicomico Early Learning Center at 9:30 a.m. Friday chauffeured in a classic 1949 Buick provided for the occasion by Wicomico music teacher and auto enthusiast Buck Burton. She will be featured, along with this year’s three finalists and 21 semifinalists, in a “Working Together for Children” Teacher of the Year special airing soon on PAC 14.
Monroe, 29, has worked with prekindergarten students at WELC since she joined the school system in 2007. A 2003 graduate of Wicomico High School, Monroe received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education/early childhood from Salisbury University in 2007, and a master’s degree as a reading specialist from SU in 2013. She plans to pursue a doctoral degree in education.
“In order to have an impact on the teaching profession, I believe that educators first have to strengthen and improve their teaching and understanding,” she wrote in her Teacher of the Year exercises. “Teaching professionals in the 21st century must be prepared to stand up and meet the challenges of the current issues in education through research, accountability, collaborating as a community of professionals, and employing best practices. Through these areas and more, we will be able to not only meet the needs of our learners, but prepare them for success and achievement in their education and their life to come.”
As Wicomico Teacher of the Year, Monroe represents the outstanding staff of the WELC and the county’s more than 1,250 teachers. Later this year, she will represent Wicomico County Public Schools in the Maryland Teacher of the Year contest. Wicomico is proud to have two former Maryland Teachers of the Year, Bonnie Walston and Aaron Deal (honored when he was teaching at Salisbury Middle), working in the school system on behalf of students.
The annual Teacher of the Year Banquet spotlights all Wicomico educators who demonstrate outstanding leadership, a commitment to excellence, dedication to teaching the children of the community, and professional achievement. This year 139 teachers were nominated. After rating reviews were completed by administrators and supervisors, the 25 semifinalists were selected. The task of narrowing the field of semifinalists for the title of Wicomico County Teacher of the Year was a difficult one, given the number of outstanding candidates, said Dr. Kirsten Jennette, coordinator of Wicomico’s Teacher of the Year recognition program.
Each semifinalist interviewed with a blue-ribbon judging panel of former Wicomico teachers of the year. Based on results from the initial rating review, the interview, a public speaking challenge, and a writing exercise, a finalist was chosen to represent each of the four school levels. Finalists were, in addition to Monroe for the primary level, Jennifer Pitoniak, special education teacher at East Salisbury Elementary, intermediate; Teresa Parrott, English as a Second Language teacher, Bennett Middle, middle level; Dion Johnson, Business teacher, Mardela Middle and High, high level.
The other semi-finalists for 2014-2015 Wicomico Teacher of the Year were Beaver Run Elementary: Donna Mason, Physical Education teacher; Charles H. Chipman Elementary: Danielle Thompson, Kindergarten teache; Choices: Kesha Cook, Middle School Mathematics teacher; Delmar Elementary: Amy Hudson, Grade 3 teacher; Fruitland Intermediate: Traci Yerkes, Media specialist; Fruitland Primary: Linda Stanley, Kindergarten; Glen Avenue Elementary: Kacie Robinson, Grade 4 teacher; James M. Bennett High: Marc Garlock, AP Psychology teacher; North Salisbury Elementary: Donna Gregory, Grade 4 teacher; Northwestern Elementary: Megan Block, Physical Education teacher; Parkside High: Bruce Harrell, Special Education teacher; Pemberton Elementary: Tara Parsons, Grade 5 teacher; Pinehurst Elementary: Jessie Brown, Special Education-Adaptive teacher; Pittsville Elementary and Middle: Lindsay McCauley, Grade 5 RELA teacher; Prince Street Elementary: Emily Dale, Kindergarten teacher; Salisbury Middle: Susan Perry, Strategic Reading teacher; West Salisbury Elementary: Meeka McCoy, Grade 2 teacher; Westside Intermediate: Dawn Bonenberger, Grade 3 teacher; Westside Primary: Marianne Noelte, Physical Education teacher; Wicomico High School: Steven Sidell, Special Education teacher; and Willards Elementary: Valerie Oliphant, Grade 1 teacher.