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Harford County Public Schools
Teacher of the Year Blog


Teacher of the Year Blog
About Amy




        Life is full of adventures. As an educator, I know that all one has to do is step foot in a classroom to see that adventure is right around the corner. While adventures can be found many places, last week, I had the unique opportunity to take an adventure off the mainland and onto an island - specifically Smith Island. Smith Island is an island comprised of three small island towns known as Tylerton, Ewell, and Rhodes Point. This past Wednesday, myself and the other Teacher of the Year representatives from their respective counties embarked on a journey to Smith Island, specifically the town of Tylerton, via a boat named the Susquehanna. The Susquehanna is a Cheasapeake Bay Foundation boat from the lovely waterfront town of Havre de Grace from our own backyard in Harford County.

        During our three-day adventure, we set out crab pots, ran tests on the different quality checkpoints of the water, toured the town of Ewell, visited the Smith Island museum, and learned about the impact of our environmental footprint through the exploration of bay grasses and went proggin’. Proggin is an Eastern Shore term for foraging the shoreline for arrowheads, old coins, and other partially buried treasure.  Just as our digital footprints can never be erased from the world wide web, our environmental footprint leaves an everlasting mark that creates a domino effect on the Chesapeake Bay and those who work and play along that bay - all of us.

        Smith Island is home to a huge part of Maryland history and culture. The last one room school house in Maryland closed its doors on Smith Island in 1996. Yes, 1996 - that is not a “typo.” Now all students in grades K through 7 attend school in the neighboring town of Ewell and instead of taking a school bus, they take a school boat. There are approximately 10 students who attend that school with one teacher and one assistant. That one teacher is also the principal of the school. Students in grades 8-12 attend Crisfield High School on the mainland. Students attending the high school begin and end their day with a 45-minute boat ride. If a student wants to participate in after school sports or related activity, he or she stays with a friend overnight, as the boat only runs twice a day - one time from the island and one time to the island.

        Smith Island residents have a distinct dialect that is unique to island residents. Smith Island residents employ turns of phrase that only other islanders would understand.  For example, instead of at night you might hear a night.  Some features of the dialect can be traced to Elizabethan era English, such as using the prefix a- with verbs ending in -ing, giving you: 'to go afishing.'  Yet other distinctive features involving vowels have arisen in the last 50 years.  Examples: brown may sound more like brain and side may sound like sad ( Source: finally, Smith Island is home to the state dessert: Smith Island cake. I have one word to describe it - "YUM." There is a variety of folklore attached to the evolution of the 8-10 layer cake, including the theory that fishermen would go out for the week, enjoy the cake and knew at the end of the layers, it was time to head back home.
       If you ever get a chance to adventure out to Smith Island, please go and visit my new friend Dennis C. In the evenings when we were free to stroll about the island, I loved going to visit Dennis and admire his art work. (Tell him “Harford County” sent you because every time I went to visit, I’d bring another teacher with me to admire his work.) He does have a Facebook page! Dennis has recently taken up residence on the island within the past four years and creates beautiful art work on pieces of old crab baskets. I enjoyed listening to his love of the island the beauty and serenity he has found living on the island. They don’t lock the doors on the island. And no one really asks what time it is, stating only, that we are running on island time.

At the end of the trip we were asked to say something we loved, something we learned, and something we will take back to the classroom with us.
Something I will take back to the classroom with me: A deeper respect for Maryland’s dependency on it’s natural resources. While proggin, I found a stone that was smooth from the water. A reminder of the beauty of the water, but also its power and impact of erosion.
Something I learned: I found the history of Smith Island enchanting and found it fascinating to be home to the last one room school house in Maryland.
Something I loved: The people I visited the island with. The other Teacher of the Year candidates are truly amazing! Their passion and dedication for the craft of their respective grade and content areas is inspiring. In my next blog, I will get into some of the connections and friendships that I formed while on the trip.

A very special thank you to Northrop Grumman and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (our CBF leaders Kat and Virginia are amazing) for sponsoring this unforgettable trip.

Until next time….

Photo 1: Smith Island sunset

Photo 2: This is a picture of Chesapeake Bay Foundation boat we traveled on.

Photo 3: Smith Is. school operated and run by one teacher and an assistant. The teacher is also the principal.

Photo 4: Exploring bay grass