As Harford County Public Schools' Teacher of the Year for 2013-2014, Kristin Schaub might have earned a day off after being presented with the award Wednesday night, but she planned to be right back in her classroom the next day.
"There no other place I'd rather be than with my kids tomorrow," the Havre de Grace Elementary School fifth grade teacher said as friends, family and colleagues congratulated her.
Schaub, 31, was selected out of five finalists for what Robert Tomback, superintendent of Harford County Public Schools, called "the highest honor" for a teacher.
She and her fellow four finalists – Tara Buecker, a physical education and health teacher at Jarrettsville Elementary School, Laura Childs, an English teacher at Edgewood High School, and Kimberly Harner and Kristine Jurgs, special educators at Southampton Middle School in Bel Air – were honored during the 19th annual Harford County Teacher of the Year Banquet at the Bayou Restaurant of Havre de Grace.
Tomback, speaking before the Teacher of the Year was announced, said the finalists were representatives of HCPS' 5,500 teachers, administrators and support staff.
"This is a celebration of five this evening, but it's really a celebration of 5,500," the superintendent said.
Francis "Rick" Grambo, president of the Harford County Board of Education, read selections from a letter former U.S. President James Madison wrote to W.T. Barry, then lieutenant governor of Kentucky, on his state's efforts to fund a public education system.
"Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people," Grambo read. "They throw that light over the public mind, which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty."
The board president thanked Harford County's teachers for educating local children "so they can prosper and be free."
Each finalist was introduced by one of her students, who gave speeches on the impact their teacher had made in their lives.
Schaub was introduced by Sidra Wheeler, who said her teacher "has changed my life in many ways."
"She's caring, loving, dedicated and cheerful," Wheeler said. "Miss Schaub has made our classroom a true family and a true team."
She said later that speaking about Schaub in front of 160 guests at the banquet was "great, because I knew that I was speaking for my teacher."
Schaub teaches 25 fifth graders, including some special needs students, with her co-teacher of four years, special educator Daniel Zubrowski.
"I am who I am because of you, and together we've become the teachers we always wanted to be," she told Zubrowski during her acceptance speech – she also thanked the many family, friends, mentors and colleagues who also helped her during her teaching career.
Schaub herself was a special needs student as a toddler growing up in Bel Air; she went on to graduate from C. Milton Wright High School, and obtain her bachelor's and master's degrees from Towson University.
She has taught at Havre de Grace Elementary since 2004.
"It's a dream of mine that has never gone away since I've been able to talk," she said of teaching. "I've been inspired by so many amazing teachers."
Her parents, Joe and Karen Schaub, were also present Wednesday.
Karen Schaub said her daughter had always worked to achieve her goals, and imparts those lessons to her students.
"She just is passionate about making every one of her students succeed, and she just sees it as her personal mission to help them achieve that goal," she said.
Joe Schaub said the pride in his daughter "just overflowed" when her name was called.
"All five of them were special people, and how they could come up with one [winner] was unbelievable," he said of the finalists.
Several prior winners of Harford County's Teacher of the Year were also at the banquet.
Ronald Wooden, Teacher of the Year for 2008 and assistant principal at Havre de Grace, said Schaub "is the most dedicated innovative teachers that I have ever met in my 14 years in education."
He said she "goes beyond her call of duty," and is "the most deserving teacher for this award; her entire Havre de Grace team is proud of her."
Schaub will go on to compete for Maryland's Teacher of the Year – the state Teacher of the Year then competes nationally.
Darla Strouse, of the Maryland State Department of Education, who serves as director of the Maryland Teacher of the Year Program, said two Maryland teachers have been named national Teachers of the Year in recent years.
She said during the banquet that Harford County is recognized as one of the top public school districts in the state, "so that makes all the top teachers [in Harford] some of the top teachers in the whole nation, don't you think?"