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Harford County Public Schools
Teacher of the Year Blog


Teacher of the Year Blog
About Paula




On April 4, 2018, I received one of the greatest surprise announcements of my life, being named HCPS 2018 Teacher of the Year. This surprise ranks right behind March 1994, more than 23 years ago, when the technician announced that he would need twice as long for my appointment because he saw two babies on the ultrasound! The night of the TOY banquet was filled with anticipation, emotion, and lots of love. During the ceremony, a student texted me (using the REMIND APP) to ask if he needed to answer all of the text dependent questions for Act I of Romeo and Juliet. At 7:22p.m., a little before the surprise announcement, I answered, “Yes, do them all!”

 About an hour later, after getting over the shock of having my name called, I immediately thought about what I would say to the smiling faces that had gathered to crown the 2018 Teacher of the Year. I also decided that I would probably need to push back that stack of grading one more day.
After the ceremony, I went home, still in shock. I quickly scanned the generous gift bags, read over my lesson for Act II of Romeo and Juliet, conducted close readings of a few emails, and attempted to retire for the evening. My body was tired, but my mind and heart were so full. The next morning, excited about “jeans day” at work, I headed out in my new car! I had to pause to locate my reading glasses because I hadn’t quite mastered the use of my new car remote. On the way to work, I stopped at a local store, only to catch Mrs. Sebastiani, a colleague and friend, attempting to surprise me by buying me flowers. The cashier at the store and a teacher from C. Milton Wright were excited to congratulate me as well.              

Back to Normal
As I glided into Bel Air High School on cloud nine, I was excited to get back to "normal."  I immediately noticed, "Congratulations, Dr. Stanton, HCPS Teacher of the Year," in big, blue, swirly letters on the window of the main office. Little did I know that the lovely paparazzo, Lindsay Bilodeau, of the HCPS communications office would be waiting with a camera to capture shots of me in my “new whip”—as the students called it. I quickly realized that this was the perfect day for me to participate in "jeans day" since I would be featured on the HCPS website wearing dusty jeans and a BAHS shirt, next to the dapper Principal Komondor, in a professional jacket and tie.—Sorry, Mom. I also realized that I wasn't wearing any lip gloss which meant that my pictures might be just a little dry J. Try as I might, I couldn’t abscond to my room for the lip gloss, so I decided that I would forget it, and rely on my charming presence, just for the day.  Besides, the entire staff was invited to attend a breakfast celebration in the media center. There were more "Congratulations!" donuts, bagels, lots of hugs and much needed coffee.
Plastered on my classroom door, was another congratulatory sign, and opening the door, I beheld a balloon extravaganza. Streamers were vertically lined over the door jamb, and when I walked through them, blue and white balloons, more streamers, and famous quotations on pink paper were arranged strategically all over the room. My stealthy, sister-teachers had decorated my room the night before.
For the remainder of the day, students and staff came by to say, “Congratulations!” This day would be anything but normal. Over the next couple of days, many others came by bearing cards, gifts, and flowers, including a delivery from Superintendent Canavan.
Let Them Play
As my students entered the room, the day after the announcement, they were “balloonotized.” It was only natural for them to grab the balloons and begin lobbing them through the air, hiding them under their shirts, and squeezing them tightly to see if they would pop. Yep, I teach high school. My co-teacher and friend, Mrs. Clark, acknowledged that we would just have to give our classes “balloon time” before every class period. Great idea! We started each of our classes with 5 minutes of balloon time. When the timer chimed, we resumed our normal festivities—ENGLISH! My co-teacher and friend, Mrs. Cox, agreed that we should do the same for our classes, and at the end of the day, we gave into the temptation and joined the balloon match.

Even though balloon play is not currently in the curriculum--(I’ll see what I can do about that!), sometimes, we simply must have fun with our students and let them see the human side of us. What did they learn by playing balloon volleyball? My 4B class learned that I haven’t quite mastered the art of team work during play. One of my students, who happens to be an athlete, kept tapping the balloon to me in true sportswoman-like fashion but I just kept trying to make the shot whenever I could. I wasn’t very good at it, but I kept trying. I’ll have to work on that!
One thing that I love about teaching is that it allows me to engage in continuous self-reflection. I also love that I can be human with my co-teachers and with my students, showing them that they don’t have to be perfect, but they must always try their best.  Needless to say, we managed to have a great day—even without my trusty lip gloss!

In the upcoming weeks, SURPRISE yourself by trying something new. Create a new NORMAL in your classroom that reflects the cultures, learning styles, interests, and needs of your students. Do this as often as necessary. How about a brain break, during which you allow students to PLAY with fidgets or have a 5-minute rock, paper, scissors tournament? Join in the fun too! Are you up to the CHALLENGE? I don’t doubt it! Whatever happens, just keep teaching. Thank you all for the emails, well-wishes and hugs!

                                                                                                                                        2018 HCPS TOY Top Five Finalists