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City teacher named Maryland Teacher of the Year

Ryan Kaiser, 40, of Mount Washington School was named Maryland Teacher of the Year. He was given the honor during a gala at Martin's Wes, which also included the 24 educators who had been named Teacher of the Year by their respective Maryland school systems. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun video)

A veteran Baltimore City teacher who for a decade has transferred his passion for history to middle-schoolers was named Maryland Teacher of the Year on Friday.

Ryan Kaiser, 40, of the Mount Washington School was given the honor during a gala at Martin's West attended by about 1,000 people, including the 24 educators who had been named Teacher of the Year by their respective Maryland school systems.

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Screams and applause went up in the audience as an envelope was slit and the winner was read. The winner's name is kept secret from all but a handful of people until it is announced.

Schools chief Gregory Thornton bear-hugged Kaiser and then he walked to the stage. "I am honored and very grateful to be up here," said Kaiser.

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He said he began teaching using a model of learning by doing 10 years ago. But it was on a trip with his parents to the Rocky Mountains when he was young, and standing on the continental divide, that he realized how powerful experiences can be in learning.

Kaiser's voice broke when he talked of the influence his parents had on his life and teaching. They had flown to Baltimore from Omaha to be with him, not knowing he would win Maryland Teacher of the Year.

Kaiser comes from a family of teachers — his grandmother taught elementary school, and both of his parents were teachers and educational administrators.

He takes his students on 20 to 30 field trips a year, including a perennial favorite to the Walters Art Museum to learn about Alexander the Great.

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"It's hard to connect and make the kids understand everything they're learning in the classroom, so my big thing is learning by doing," Kaiser said in April, when he was named the city's Teacher of the Year. "The trips help them get a full grasp of everything we've been learning, and it really shows in their work. They also get them excited about the next thing."

Kaiser writes the city's middle school honors curriculum, serves as communications coordinator for the Maryland Council for Social Studies and writes curriculum and lesson plans for teachers nationwide for the White House Visitor Center.

He coaches his school's Baltimore Urban Debate League team, and has created a summer program that takes students on field trips along the East Coast and raises money during the year to help students attend.

He also serves with the school's Parent Teacher Organization, and engages with parents through a weekly blog.

Kaiser is only the second city teacher to earn the recognition in the past 25 years. Linda Eberhart, a math teacher and now a member of the Maryland State Board of Education, won in 2002.

Kaiser will go on to compete for the National Teacher of the Year designation and will be honored in a White House ceremony next April. A Maryland teacher has won that honor three times in the past decade.

As Maryland winner, Kaiser will receive cash awards, technology equipment, national travel opportunities, and a new car valued at more than $25,000, donated by the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association. Kaiser's school will receive $10,000 from McDonald's.

A native of Omaha, Neb., Kaiser has been a teacher for 16 years, including 10 in the city. He moved to Maryland in 2005 and wanted to live and work in Baltimore because of the city's rich history. He did postgraduate studies in outdoor experiential learning at the University of Colorado.

Interim Maryland State School Superintendent Jack Smith said in a statement that Kaiser "is a classroom teacher, first and foremost, and his work with his students crackles with energy and creativity."

The sponsors of the Maryland Teacher of the Year Program are Comcast, the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, McDonald's of Maryland, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems. Platinum sponsors are BGE, Lockheed Martin, Maryland Public Television, NTA Life and Whiting-Turner Contracting Co.

Baltimore Sun reporter Erica L. Green contributed to this article.

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