A finalist for Baltimore County's teacher of the year award, Michelle Webster, a reading specialist at Woodholme Elementary School, credits great leadership and great role models for her success as well as a lot of hard work.

"I have partnered with lots of great teachers over the years and there are teachers in my family. My sister is a teacher," Webster said. "I've been very fortunate to be in Baltimore County. This is really a top-notch administration I'm working with now. There are definitely role models for me who I would strive to be."

Webster first taught preschool and then elementary school.

"I think one of the most important things every teacher needs to do in their job is to build relationships with students," Webster said. "Really get to know them as a person. Their interests and what they like. I know my students. That's helped me along the way."

Now, as a reading specialist for Woodholme, she works with all grades, as well as teachers, and her input also affects curriculum and professional development.

"With my position, I don't just look at what is good for my classroom," Webster said. "I'm always looking with that global mindset. What is going to be good for Woodholme as a whole? I support all of the teachers and students."

"Michelle Webster has been at Woodholme since it was built," said Maralee Clark, principal of the school. "She helped create all the traditions and the culture of the school. She does a lot of innovative thinking, outside of the box with students."

Webster is very proud of Woodholme.

"Woodholme is a very special place not only for the teachers but for the boys and girls to grow," Webster said. "It didn't get to be a National Blue Ribbon school by accident. Everything done at Woodholme is done for a purpose."

When Webster takes in account all of the teachers is Baltimore County, she is humbled to be selected as a finalist.

"Just Woodholme alone, there are incredible teachers I work with every day," Webster said. "To be one of five is incredible to me."

Finding potential

The northwest county claims another of the five finalists for Baltimore County's teacher of the year honor in English teacher Adam Carney.

Carney has been teaching for eight years — all of them at New Town High School in Owings Mills. A New York native, Carney moved to Baltimore County for the job and says he couldn't be happier.

"I love interacting with the kids and helping them reach their full potential," Carney said.

"When it finally hits and they get it, they reach a place they didn't even think they could get to."

Carney says that the reputation of New Town High School is on the rise.

"We've worked hard to build it," Carney said of the dedication he and his fellow teachers have for the school. "It is only getting better because of all of these efforts … and hard work we've done to help our students achieve. It is just a great place to be right now."

Besides teaching English, Carney is also the technology liaison for the school, attending meetings and keeping inventory of the school's hardware and equipment. He said he makes sure the school is kept as "close to the edge as we can get" with new technology.

He also works on the AP committee.

"I try to be involved as much and possible and invested as much as possible," Carney said.

"He is always thinking up new and interesting ways to encourage, engage and motivate our students. He stays ahead of the curve on the latest technology and makes sure our students know how to use the technology to enhance their own education," said Kristina Anderson, head of the English department at New Town, in an email. "He knows exactly what each student needs to achieve and works ... to ensure that he provides high quality student-centered instruction in each and every class."

It is his fellow teachers that Carney most admires.

"I love coming to work every day," Carney said. "We've got one of the best staff."

He is grateful for the opportunity to be a finalist for Baltimore County Teacher of the Year as it also represents New Town.

"If I win, I will be grateful to bring it back to New Town," Carney said. "If not, maybe I can be a speaker for how far our school has come."

Baltimore County's Teacher of the Year will be announced May 5 at a ceremony at Loch Raven High School.