Educator from Baltimore named Teacher of the Year
By Ally Lanasa, Staff Writer
Oct. 22, 2020) Worcester County Teacher of the Year Christina McQuaid was honored alongside all the 2020 Maryland Teacher of the Year nominees on Oct. 8 during a 30-minute program on Maryland Public Television.
“I love to build relationships with students by starting with the families through constant communication, home visits and letting them know that I am there for them with more than just academic support,” McQuaid said during the broadcast. “This is a critical part of building relationships, especially in a time when those connections are needed now more than ever.”
McQuaid, who teaches fifth grade English-language arts and social studies at Pocomoke Middle School, said being the 2020 Worcester County Teacher of the Year has been a unique experience for her.
“A lot of the activities that normally we would do have been done very differently through Zoom, through meetings, through emails [and] through Facebook,” she said. “It’s been exciting, and I’m looking forward to everything that’s coming.”
Although the traditional dinner banquet could not be held because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, McQuaid said the Maryland Teacher of the Year Special program was special indeed.
“I really wasn’t expecting them to be able to do anything of that nature,” she said. “They went out of their way to make sure that all teachers were recognized and that they got an experience they could remember.”
McQuaid defines a teacher of the year as an educator who takes extra time to be supportive, effective and interactive in the community and their students’ lives.
“I try to attend as many of the community events as I can,” she said. “We’ve done a couple home visits. I’ve even gone to the [YMCA] and set up help with kids that needed it … of course taking all the precautions that we need to take. It’s a matter of really reaching out and communicating with the families. It’s making sure that the parents know that I am here with their questions and that they can write me about anything, whether that be technology or academics or just social issues. We have families going through things. I want them to know that our school and our community [are] there for them.”
McQuaid added that she strives to make a personal connection with each student, whether he or she is engaged in virtual learning or in-person instruction.
“[That] has been my goal this year, so that they know I’m there for them,” she said.
Since more county public school students were brought back to campuses on Monday, McQuaid said she is almost at half capacity in each class.
“Today I had 100 percent attendance,” McQuaid said on Monday. “It made my day.”
She said students have been active in their education online and in-person.
“They really want to learn. They want to be there, and they’re going to do what it takes to do it,” McQuaid added.
McQuaid is in her ninth year at Pocomoke Middle School. She has been teaching for 18 years in various areas, including Accomack County, Virgina, Somerset County, Wicomico County and Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
“I don’t plan on ever leaving Worcester,” McQuaid added. “It’s definitely my home.”
As an educator and a parent of two children in the county school system, McQuaid is impressed by her colleagues.
“I have had the privilege of working lots of other places, and I had no doubt that Worcester was going to step up,” she said. “I had no doubt in my mind about that but watching everyone step up has been a true privilege. The innovation that they have come up with, the outstanding rigor that they’re keeping, while keeping such compassion in their teaching even virtually and with kids in the classroom and keeping up on it, it has been just an amazing experience.”
Finalists for the 2020-21 Maryland Teacher of the Year award were Wyatt Oroke, an English-language arts teacher for seventh and eighth grades at City Springs Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore City; Caitlin Fregelette, a physical education and health educator for grades ninth through 12th at Calvert High School in Calvert County; Jena Ehmann, a reading specialist for grades pre-k through fifth at Winfield Elementary School in Carroll County; Chelsea Jones, a seventh grade science teacher at Elkton Middle School in Cecil County; James E. Ball, a science, technology and industry and art instructor for grades ninth through 12th at North Point High School in Charles County; Christine Hurley, a library media instructor for grades sixth through eighth at Boonsboro Middle School in Washington County and Hemalatha Bhaskaran, a science teacher for grades ninth through 12th at James M. Bennett High School in Wicomico County.
State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Karen Salmon announced Oroke as the 2020-21 Maryland Teacher of the Year.