The recent induction of three veteran Harford County Public Schools educators into the school system's Educator Hall of Fame for was marked by an emotional and tearful tribute to one of the three, who died in 2011.
David Simmons, a native of Havre de Grace, began teaching physical education at Havre de Grace Middle School in 1976; he went on to teach at Harford Technical High School and North Harford High School, and he spent the remainder of his career teaching physical education at the elementary school level, according to background documents provided by the school system.
Mr. Simmons taught at Emmorton, Forest Hill, Havre de Grace, Hickory and Meadowvale elementary schools from 1989 until he retired in 2011.
Mr. Simmons was diagnosed with ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, in 2010. He retired July 1, 2011, and he died in October of 2011, according to the background.
Havre de Grace Middle's annual Turkey Trot run has since been renamed the Dave Simmons Turkey Trot.
Jillian Lader, manager of communications, became emotional at several points Monday during the induction ceremony when reading the background on Mr. Simmons, who had been her physical education teacher when she was a student at Hickory Elementary in Bel Air.
"Interacting with his students and getting to know them was what Mr. Simmons enjoyed the most about his job," she said. "I can personally attest to that."
Mr. Simmons' widow, Joanne, also read a dedication to him.
"Dave's care and concern for the children of Harford County was evident as he strove to ensure that all children, including those with special needs, were able to participate and have the best experience in physical education that he could possibly give them," she said, her voice wavering.
Joanne Simmons accepted a plaque and certificates from Superintendent Barbara Canavan and Board of Education President Nancy Reynolds; from Tom Owen, president of the Harford County Retired School Personnel Association – a co-sponsor of the Educator Hall of Fame – and county and state proclamations from County Councilman Richard Slutzky, all in her late husband's honor.
Similar plaques, certificates and proclamations were given to inductees Lynne Owen and George Clark.
Owen, a native of Philadelphia, began teaching in Harford County in 1976 when the "stay-at-home" mother was hired to teach eighth-grade English at Joppatowne High School, according to the background document. She went on to teach English at Magnolia Middle School.
She was promoted to be an assistant principal at Southampton Middle School. She later served as principal of Magnolia and Fallston middle schools.
Owen was later promoted to supervisor of English and reading for the school system. She retired in 2012.
"I am well aware that I did not get to this spot, getting all these awards, just by myself," she said. "Many hard-working educators made my goals a reality."
She recalled when Magnolia and Fallston were recognized by the state for improvements in their test scores.
"It was because teachers embraced the power of school-based decision making and came together to set common standards and expectations for students," Owen said.
Clark, a native of Kentucky, came to the Harford County schools in 1964.
He spent 17 years teaching business at Bel Air High School and another 17 years teaching business at C. Milton Wright High School.
He also coached track and field at both high schools; later in his career, he spent eight years as the grants accountant for the school system. He retired in 2005.
"We have in front of us every day the most important resource that this county, this state, that this country has, and if we as teachers in front of the classroom don't develop that to its full potential, then we just need to walk out the door and leave, because that's what we're there for," Clark said.