A Cecil County high school teacher who once considered dropping out of school but "worked and borrowed" her way to become the first in her family to graduate from college has been named one of the four finalists for the title of National Teacher of the Year, the state department of education announced Thursday.
Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship, an English teacher at Rising Sun High School and Maryland's reigning Teacher of the Year, will compete against teachers from Florida, New Hampshire and Washington, the department said in a release.
Holmes-Blankenship won the state honor in October for helping her 10th- and 11th-grade students "develop critical thinking and inquiry skills through the exploration of literature and the processes of writing, speaking, and listening," the release said.
State officials also said she serves as a mentor to other Cecil County teachers, and is an integral part of the school's efforts to improve.
The National Teacher of the Year will be announced in April. The winner will be recognized by the president in a White House ceremony and will go on to to "collaborate with policy makers at every level and advocate on behalf of the teaching profession," state officials said.
Maryland has a favorable track record of finalists moving on to become winners. The two other finalists for the National Teacher of the Year -- Kimberly Oliver Burnim of Montgomery County and Michelle Shearer of Frederick County -- both won the honor in the years they competed for the national title.
The National Teacher of the Year program is run by the Council of Chief State School Officers.