SNOW HILL – Education officials have selected Worcester Technical High School’s Aarti Sangwan as the 2021 Teacher of the Year.
In a virtual ceremony Friday, Superintendent Lou Taylor recognized nominees and announced that Sangwan, who teaches computer science, pre-engineering and physics, was the 2021 Worcester County Teacher of the Year.
“It’s truly an honor to represent our county at the state level,” said Sangwan, who is in her sixth year of teaching at Worcester Tech.
Though the pandemic again prompted the cancellation of the school system’s annual gala honoring teachers, educators held a virtual ceremony Friday to recognize the county’s 14 Teacher of the Year nominees.
“While we had held out hope we would be able to return to hosting our beautiful gala in Ocean City to honor our teachers while they are surrounded by friends, family and colleagues, unfortunately we’re not quite to that point in this pandemic,” Taylor said. “But just because we can’t be together in person to celebrate our teachers it doesn’t mean we can’t gather together here on social media and in family watch parties in the thousands of homes across our region.”
The virtual ceremony included clips of each nominee teaching as well as commentary from educators and students. Taylor said the presentation highlighted the efforts of all the county’s teachers.
“This year more than any other I have witnessed our teachers’ courage and dedication in ways I have never seen,” he said. “To all of our educators tuning in tonight I am so proud of you and incredibly grateful for each and every one of you.”
Finalists for the 2021 award were Buckingham Elementary School’s Melissa Reid, Pocomoke Elementary School’s Lauren Walker, Snow Hill Middle School’s Cara Kurtz and Sangwan. The winner was selected by scored evaluations from a panel of education and local officials.
Diane Shorts, the school system’s chief academic officer for prekindergarten through eighth grade, praised all of those who’d been nominated.
“What an amazing group of educators,” she said. “They are all phenomenal teachers that are truly working to reach every child in their care.”
Sangwan’s peers at Worcester Tech described her as a role model who could always be found helping students, whether it was through tutoring or after-school clubs. Student Jessica Beck said during Friday’s ceremony that Sangwan was efficient and engaging.
“You sit down in class one day and by the time you’ve left you haven’t even realized you’ve learned so much because it’s so natural and it feels so effortless the way that she presents,” Beck said.
In an interview this week, Sangwan said that while she was initially just happy to be her school’s Teacher of the Year nominee, her heart started racing when she found out she was a finalist.
“I was excited,” she said.
Sangwan, who has a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in computer science, earned her Master of Arts in teaching from Salisbury University. She said she’d always been interested in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. While she was initially hired to teach AP physics, she was thrilled to add pre-engineering and bio-med classes to her schedule. She’ll be involved with a new cyber security course next year.
‘The best part about my job is being able to teach the subjects I enjoy,” she said, adding that she tries to keep classes hands-on.
She loves seeing her students’ “Aha!” moments.
“I see the excitement,” she said.
Sangwan does her best to promote science literacy and science education. She coaches Science Olympiad teams and SkillsUSA engineering challenge competitors. She also oversees a girls coding club, which she says educates students about the importance of cyber security and also brings more female representation to the computer science field.
As the 2021 Teacher of the Year, Sangwan will represent Worcester County in the state level competition.