Joshua Parker, a 28-year-old Windsor Mill Middle School teacher in Baltimore County, was named the Maryland Teacher of the Year on Friday night, beating out five other finalists from across the state.
The announcement was a surprise, kept secret to everyone but a few state education staffers until it was announced to a large crowd at Martin's West about 9:30 p.m.
The son of a Prince George's County teacher who encouraged him to enter the profession, Parker is language arts department chairman at Windsor Mill, a school with a high number of disadvantaged students.
Besides his teaching duties, Parker has organized an all-male reading club, coaches junior varsity basketball and directed a top team in the Black Saga Competition.
As Teacher of the Year, Parker will receive a new car, $9,000 in cash awards, a week at National Space Camp, a trip to the Teacher of Year conference in Dallas, $15,000 worth of classroom technology and other prizes. He will be honored with other state Teachers of the Year at theWhite House.
Last year's Maryland Teacher of the Year, Michelle Shearer, became National Teacher of the Year.
"As an instructor, I tell my students about the lifelong importance of literacy," Parker said in an interview in May when he was named Baltimore County Teacher of the Year. "They have a voice worth listening to and a life worth writing about. I tell them they have options and that literacy changes lives."
When his name was announced at Friday's ceremony, the area around him "just erupted," said Parker, who thinks every new teacher needs to "have a connection to something larger than yourself" to deal with rough patches in the job.
"It would be a lie to say that this will surprise them [at school]," he said. His students were rooting for him to win, Parker explained. "They'll be excited."
His mother, Joyce Parker, encouraged her son to work as a substitute to try out teaching. He soon became hooked. He was nominated for the award by his principal, Debbie Phelps.
A College of Notre Dame of Maryland graduate, Parker taught language arts at Dundalk Middle School and English at New Town High School before moving to Windsor Mill. He has been a teacher for six years.