As I prepared for last night when I passed the baton to the 2017 Harford County Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year, I paused for reflection on the past year. This amazing journey began a year and two weeks ago and the wild ride began. I remain so humbled and honored to have represented such fine teaching as we have in Harford County and I thank you for the support I have been given over this past year. As the Teacher of the Year, one of my initiatives has been to pay tribute to the wonderful teachers we have in Harford County. Last night’s honor went to one of our own in the North Harford area, Mr. Tom Berg, who passed away last Friday. I was so fortunate for Mr. Berg to, not only be the 8th grade social studies teacher for all three of my children, but mine as well. Mr. Berg is described as a kind, gentle, sweet man by everyone who knew him, whose passion was children and making a positive impact in their lives. Mr. Berg saw something in our shy and reserved son that caused him to track Matt down on his own time and get him signed up to audition for the 8th grade play. I’m sure it was because they needed male characters, but I believe that Mr. Berg saw something that he could help nurture and grow. It was a turning point for our son, who was so very shy that many times he couldn’t look even his loved ones in the eye, and I am always grateful to Mr. Berg for his encouragement for him. Mr. Berg may best be known coaching girls’ soccer for 40+ years in our area, so I thought I would share a story that not many people may know. Back when I was in the 8th grade, Mr. Berg offered an after-school soccer clinic…for boys only. I was in a group of girls who desperately wanted to participate, but he wouldn’t let us. We begged and pleaded…to no avail, until one day he said “OK…if you do everything I ask the boys to do.” We were so excited to be able to join the group and felt that he allowed us to earn our spot in the clinic. Because we loved Mr. Berg so much, we did everything in our power so as not to disappoint him. In 1975, we changed his mind but he forever changed our hearts. I remember this fondly, especially because he is known for helping girls break through the gender barrier in Harford County, accepting a girl on his boys’ high school soccer team back in the ‘80’s. I always feel that death has a way of bringing families together, from far and wide. The passing of a teacher has a magical way of bringing generations of people together and put them all in the same classroom even though their ages span decades. Mr. Berg…we will hold you in our hearts forever.
I am a believer that everyone has a story and I was blessed to share several of mine with audiences ranging from former students at awards assemblies to new teachers beginning their career path in Harford County to the retired teachers of the Chi chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa. I took advantage of the use of a car larger than my Honda Civic that transported a wheelbarrow, shovels and rakes for participation in last April’s Second Saturday Serve working side by side with students, parents, and teachers to beautify the grounds of North Harford Middle School. That car was also Santa’s sleigh, stuffed to the brim with Thanksgiving food and clothes and Christmas gifts and food donated by many wonderful community members who discovered the needs of a homeless family in our area and rose to the occasion without hesitation.
I attended my first Raven’s game and college football game and definitely received some Grammy “cool points” from my grandboys in Tennessee, who are huge Terps fans who bleed purple. We toured the U.S.S. Leyte Gulf and talked with navy shipmen who spoke with pride about their service to our country and was inspired to share these experiences with my students. I was blessed to hear the stories of the hard-working people of Smith Island as they shared their stories of a rich culture in our very own state. We baited crab pots, tested the Chesapeake Bay’s water quality and were reminded or our impact on this incredibly important natural resource in our own back yard. We were so humbled and honored to be about to tour the White House and had the added bonus of going when it was decorated for the holidays. I had my very own tour guide as I walked through with the Frederick County TOY who is a social studies teacher and shared storied that I didn’t remember from my school days. We went to Annapolis and I met our legislators, senators, and other employees of our state government who were so proud to be a part of Harford County. We met with the MD State Superintendent of Schools a few times over the course of the year. Dr. Salmon shared her vision with us and fielded questions and concerns regarding MD’s public schools. We toured the Walter’s Art Gallery and learned how to digitally connect with them so that we could incorporate their artifacts in our daily lessons and activities. We will be attending professional conferences to enhance our teaching and help us to provide the best education we possibly can for our students. We will be working and mentoring college seniors in the Teachers of Promise program to support them as they begin their rewarding career in teaching. I am very thankful for the opportunities I have been given and have grown as a teacher as I’ve been feeding off of the conversations I have at that these events.
People have asked me what my favorite part of this experience has been and hands down I would have to say it’s being around such inspiring people. The MD 2017 TOY family is a group of dedicated and hard-working teachers. During every activity, I am awed at their gracious hearts and inspiring lives and careers. We have the National Foreign Language Teacher of the Year and one of the National Teacher of the Year finalists in our group. The Montgomery County TOY is the Minority Scholars Program coordinator and Baltimore County’s is leading the way to encourage young men of color to go into the teaching profession. So many of them are givers and are an integral part of their school communities. One is the founder of Project Guardian Angel John 16:33 which provides care kits to families of sick children in Wicomico County for their travel across the bay to the hospital. Garrett County’s teacher coaches a robotics team that provides STEM outreach and education and competes on the national and international level. The Caroline County teacher was chosen as the Lead PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator for Maryland and represented MD at a conference in Denver. The Queen Anne’s County TOY is going to China this summer to provide professional development for educators there on creative ways to teach English. The Kent County TOY is a Polar Bear Plunger and EMT. They volunteer at their own schools as well as that of their children’s. They lift each other up with positive talk and do amazing things as a part of their regular day. We use our time together to build each other up and to share ideas and activities that we can then share with our colleagues. I am so inspired being a part of this professional group of people whose energy and passion drive me to be the best I can be.
Over the past few weeks, as I learned more about each of our five finalists this year, I am just as inspired with all the wonderful things they do every day. They work tirelessly for our children in Harford County, making their time in your classrooms a memorably priceless experience. They go above and beyond the regular demands of teaching, cherishing the relationship they have with each of their students. They know how important memory making is and they are making the world a better place in which to live.
A special congratulations to Amy Mangold, who is the 2017 Harford County Teacher of the Year. Amy, you are so deserving of this honor because of the amazing work you do with your students and the humble person that you are. We are blessed to have you on board as the newest member of the Harford County TOY family. Enjoy the ride.