Havre de Grace Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Thomas Dennison Jr., Harford County’s most recent Milken Educator recipient, has received another prestigious honor.
The Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes in Fort Scott, Kansas, an international educational non-profit, has awarded its fellowship to Dennison, it was announced earlier this week.
Dennison will arrive in Fort Scott on Monday, June 25, for a week of collaboration with LMC staff, according to a news release from the center.
The LMC Fellowship is awarded on the basis of merit to educators who have distinguished themselves in teaching respect and understanding through project-based learning or who have the potential for this distinction, according to the release.
The Center selects exemplary teachers from across America and Europe, drawn from a variety of disciplines, to collaborate on projects that discover, develop and communicate the stories of Unsung Heroes in history.
Dennison is a 2016 Milken Educator, who uses his platform to share with teachers that they are the greatest motivators and tools a student could have, the news release states. He consistently hosts visiting teachers to his classroom and leads workshops on engagement and relationship building with students.
He has served on the Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports team at his school for several years and is one of the founding leaders for his school’s 11 Expectation Core Value House program.
Dennison has taught a wide range of students, from gifted and talented group to high needs special education groups, and from kindergarten to fifth grade.
At his church, he now runs the elementary program, while previously leading the middle school program and once a month preaching to the adults.
Dennison says he wants each group and every person to see the potential within themselves and to explore what makes them uniquely gifted, in order to make this world better.
In the 2015-2016 school year 10 percent of Dennison’s reading students passed the Scholastic Reading Inventory and the piloted PARCC assessments at the proficient or advanced reading level, according to the LMC release.
Behaviors reports and referrals in Dennison’s class decrease dramatically for students each year, although he always acknowledges the importance of fresh starts and grace for each student each day.
Students say that he understands them, isn’t fake with them and lets their voices be heard. Guiding students to be real and hardworking remains Dennison’s overarching goal, according to LMC.
Dennison’s classrooms are always changing, as is his style and method of delivery, to adjust to who his kids are and who he is growing to be.
He says there is never a day where there isn’t at least one change made to the classroom, and the students often make a game out of being the first to find it. Dennison forces students to take a stance, deal with the real world and the issues it presents and defend their stance in what his school calls: intellectual engagement.
Dennison’s teammates and colleagues know him for making students address social justice issues and for challenging what they think they already know.
“Thomas was the outstanding Milken Educator in Maryland and his work in elementary education will allow us to further our outreach in this area,” LMC Executive Director Norm Conard said in a statement. “He will reach a high level with project based learning."
While in Fort Scott, LMC Fellows gain knowledge, educational resources and ongoing support to enhance their classrooms and help students cultivate a passion for learning by creating projects that initiate positive change.
Fellows emerge prepared to develop Unsung Heroes projects with their students as they apply and evaluate the stories of role models who have changed the world throughout history.
Dennison has been honored for his work locally by the Harford County Board of Education, Havre de Grace City Council and the Harford County Council.