As might be expected for a Teacher of the Year, summer is not a time of rest, but a time of heightened activity. For Baltimore County’s new Teacher of the Year, Jodi Grosser-Gonzalez, world language department chair at New Town High School, summer activities include competing to be named Maryland’s Teacher of the Year and planning columns to share with Baltimore County Public Schools staff and the community through school system publications.
Teachers of the Year from all 24 Maryland school systems are considered for the statewide title. After their written applications are reviewed, finalists are interviewed by a panel of education and community leaders. Once selected, the Maryland Teacher of the Year: speaks throughout the state; participates in National Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama; is invited to U.S. Department of Education programs; and has an opportunity to meet the President of the United States.
But while becoming Maryland Teacher of the Year remains an exciting possibility, Ms. Grosser-Gonzalez is clearly thrilled in her new role as Baltimore County Teacher of the Year. During her acceptance speech at the May 2, 2005, Teacher of the Year ceremony, Ms. Grosser-Gonzalez brought the audience to tears as she explained why she loves what she does. “I work in a profession I call my passion. I work with colleagues I call my friends. I work with leaders I call my heroes. I work with kids I call my babies,” she said.
“There is no other job on this planet that can make me feel that alive.”
Ms. Grosser-Gonzalez’s selection as Teacher of the Year was announced last May by Deputy Superintendent Dr. Christine Johns before an audience of family, friends, and colleagues and a bank of television cameras.
Homeretta Ayala, a library media specialist at Fullerton Elementary School, was also honored as a finalist in the county competition. Ms. Ayala described the day as “a summation of all the teachers, students, administrators, and superintendents we have worked with. Teaching never ends. You all help us continue to be the best.”
The honorees were joined at the ceremony by seven past Baltimore County Teacher of the Year winners – Diane Richmond (1997-98), Deborah McClintock (1999-2000), Sarah Jeanne Sayles (2000-01), Christina Blackman (2001-02), Cheryl Bost (2002-03), Paul Winfield (2003-04), and Sharon Grimes (2004-05).
Board of Education members participating in the event included John A. Hayden, III, Joy Shillman, Warren C. Hayman, and Michael P. Kennedy (now a former Board member). Speaking for the Board, Mr. Kennedy, a former teacher himself, described teachers as “the hardest working group of people you’ll ever meet.”
Ms. Grosser-Gonzalez has been a Spanish teacher in Baltimore County since 1993. While at Randallstown High for ten years, she successfully led the cheerleading team to its first county championship and became department chair in 1988. She transferred to New Town High School when it opened in 2003.
In introducing Ms. Grosser-Gonzalez, Dr. Johns said, “Jodi is known throughout the county and far beyond the county for her innovations. Her language program is rich in technology as well as current best practices. Teachers come from other districts to see how she is using new white board technology along with the language lab to implement curriculum.”
Dr. Johns also noted that Ms. Grosser-Gonzalez was well-known for her creative and timely lesson plans and for her interest in creating a sense of community for students. “Thanks to great teachers like Jodi,” Dr. Johns said, “young people in Baltimore County do become a part of something bigger and do go on to do big things for this community and the world.”
Ms. Grosser-Gonzalez said that she kept asking herself what she did to deserve such an honor, and finally concluded that maybe it wasn’t what she did, but what she didn’t do. “I never once stopped caring…about how my classroom looks and feels, about how my teachers are feeling, about whether I am engaging every student every day.”
Along with the prestigious honor of being selected as Baltimore County’s Teacher of the Year, Ms. Grosser-Gonzalez received generous rewards from the area business community. The Baltimore Area Toyota Dealers and Jerry’s Toyota provided her with the use of a 2005 Toyota Corolla for one year; Comcast Cable presented her with a $1,000 check towards the purchase of a laptop computer; NEA Value Builders and Orchard Landing Restaurant provided her with gift certificates; and TABCO honored her with an engraved trophy.
Story by Diana Spencer, Communications