Banks joins Harford Educator Hall of Fame

Maudeline A. Banks was inducted into the Harford County Public Schools Educator Hall of Fame as its 163rd member Monday.

Banks, 92, who retired in 1979, taught at the Bel Air Colored School, later named Central Consolidated, that is now Hickory Elementary, at Havre de Grace Consolidated School, now Roye-Williams Elementary, at Bel Air High School and at Southampton Middle.

During the Harford County Board of Education meeting, Banks was presented with a plaque and certificates from the board, as well as county and state recognizing her 28 years of service.

Banks was born and raised in Harrisburg, Pa., and graduated from Virginia State College with a bachelor of science in home economics in 1942.

"The only thing I could do was teach," she said in reflection for the brief biography prepared to accompany her hall of fame induction. "The opportunities for jobs for black people were always limited. So, I knew I could obtain employment as a teacher in a segregated school."

Banks taught for two years and then took advantage of a government program to earn a master's degree from Columbia University. She taught in Texas and West Virginia before meeting her late husband, Walter, and relocating to Harford County in 1948.

In those days, the Harford school system was strictly segregated by race. Black children attended separate all-black schools and were taught only by black teachers.

Even following Brown vs. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 Supreme Court ruling that outlawed separate, racially segregated schools, Harford school leaders resisted integration, often making specious claims such as that black children would be unable to learn at the same pace as white children and that black teachers, normally the products of traditionally black colleges, would not be accepted by the white students and their parents.

Harford schools were finally integrated in 1966, and Banks says she considers being part of the civil rights history in Harford County one of her major career accomplishments. She said she is most proud that when she was placed in an integrated classroom, she was accepted on her merits as an effective educator by parents, students, peers and school administrators.

As a teacher, Banks said she was passionate about watching young adults, especially women, develop skills and talents for domestic living. Friends and former students remember how she would stay long hours after school to make clothes for students who could not afford them and how she often bought lunch for her less fortunate students. She is also remembered for doing similar charitable work in the community.

Banks, who lives in Churchville, retired in 1979. She and her late husband have a son, Walter Jr. The senior Banks was a banking executive.

Former colleague and longtime community leader Janice E.M. Grant nominated Banks for the hall of fame, with endorsements from Woodrow B. Grant Jr., former student Lenora E. Robinson and her niece, Ginny Simpson.

In other honors at Monday's school board meeting, board members congratulated Fountain Green Elementary School for being named the winner for best character education practices during the 2010-2011 academic year and honored as a School of the Year by the Maryland Center for Character Education.

Five schools throughout the state are awarded the title each year. Fountain Green's foundation of the character education program "actively promotes core ethical values as the basis of good character," Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications, said.

Danielle Taylor, a history teacher at Church Creek Elementary in Riverside, is the Maryland recipient of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History award for National History Teacher of the Year.

"I was very surprised," Taylor said of her win. "I feel that history is very important.

Teachers from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools and U.S. territories are selected as finalists, while one is recognized as the National History Teacher of the Year. Taylor received a certificate of recognition, $1,000 and books and classroom resources in her name that will go to Church Creek's library.

Aegis Managing Editor Allan Vought contributed to this story.

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