Skip Navigation Links

Harford County Public Schools
Teacher of the Year Blog


Teacher of the Year Blog
About Paula




It’s official! We have two weeks left in the school year with our kids. Stay the course! One of the ways that I try to maintain momentum at the end of the school year is by having students engage in project-based learning. This year, my 9th grade students are working on 20Time self-selected projects. They began by presenting 60 second elevator pitches in front of the class in order to get the green light to begin work on their projects. For the past 3 ½ weeks, I have allotted 20 minutes of class time to do the work. Each day, students complete an exit ticket to check in on how well they are progressing and to indicate whether they need any support from me.  I used resources from Laura Randazzo to help students design these potentially life changing projects on which THEY take the lead. One of my colleagues, Laura Nieman, shared it with us several months ago, and three of the teachers in my department are doing variations of it.  Some of the projects include:
  • Taking a vow of silence and learning sign-language to communicate with the deaf
  • Researching Louisiana cuisine and generating a menu of cultural dishes that local restaurants in Bel Air might should add to their existing menus
  • Breaking a world record by baking the largest cream filled biscuit
  • Conducting a social experiment to understand how people respond to greetings
  • Generating professional resumes that reflect diverse interests and activities
  • Creating a blog to discuss mental health awareness of teens
By diving in to these projects, students are conducting focused research, conducting social experiments, viewing TED Talks, and presenting what they have learned to their peers. As a department at BAHS, we decided to work on presentation skills this year, so it seems only fitting to end the year with a summative assessment that allows them to show them off.
My 10th graders are writing persuasive speeches on self-selected topics as well. In a PLC meeting,  my colleague, Christin Orth, shared her persuasive speech rubric, and we discussed how we might all use a similar assessment at the end of the year to evaluate students’ growth on argument writing/speech/presentations. My students engaged in the full process of outlining their speeches, drafting, and revising them. Finally, they are going to present their speeches in a format similar to a TED Talk using visual aids that engage the audience with minimal words.  To get them ready for this task, I had them watch model, Cameron Russell’s TED Talk about image. She talks about how image is superficial and effectively uses real life pictures next to fancy model shots to show that her true image is not reflected on the professional shots. She also discusses how she understands her privilege as she explores the lack of diversity in the modeling industry. She argues that she is a model for no other reason than she hit the “genetic lottery” according to society’s interpretation of beauty. By the way, my students thought Cameron Russell would have scored a 4 out of 5 in most categories on our persuasive speech rubric. My kids are tough critics.Some of the more interesting speech topics of my students are:
  • Ghosts are real.
  • Fourteen year-olds should be able to drive.
  • Online dating is too dangerous.
  • Animals should have more rights.
The entire visual component of the presentation can have no more than 50 words.Needless to say, it is has been an interesting exercise trying to get them to understand that the audience should be focused on them, not on reading their slides. I can't wait to view their final presentations.

On May 22, accompanied by Superintendent Canavan, Board Member, Nancy Reynolds, Principal Komondor, and Communications Director, Jillian Lader, I also met the 23 Teachers of the Year from all of the other school districts in the state of Maryland at the State Board presentation and luncheon. What a group!  We include:
  • One ESL teacher to students in China
  • One award winning author
  • Avid Program Coordinator
  • STEM Expo Founder
  • SMECO Math Teacher of the Year
  • Founder of Multicultural Committee
  • Former professional in the finance industry
This is just a taste of this group’s phenomenal accomplishments. I will
get to know them this year as we meet to discuss educational topics and compete for Maryland Teacher of the Year. I can’t wait to get to share our HCPS stories while listening to ways that they support teaching and
learning in their respective districts. We had the pleasure of hearing from Joshua Carroll, the current Maryland Teacher of the Year and fellow high school English teacher. NTA Life gave away ANOTHER flat screen television, and someone placed a huge plate of chocolate chip
cookies right in front of me after lunch—drops mic.

I hope that everyone had a beautiful Memorial Day weekend and spent some time honoring/thinking about those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

We’re at the end of the year, BUT #keepteaching!