Health teacher Kellie Hurst's passion for teaching doesn't go unnoticed by her students.
Westminster High School senior Brett Helton has spent four years in her advisory, has taken Health 1 and 2 and is signed up for Health 3, which debuts at the school starting in January.
"She really loves what she's teaching," he said. "It makes the experience in class a lot better."
Hurst has been named the Maryland Health Teacher of the Year for school year 2013-14 by the Maryland Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
In addition, three other teachers - Michael Golden, Connie Wuenschel Tumulty and Jessica Reid - received the Simon McNeely Award from the same organization.
The Health Teacher of the Year award is presented to a teacher who serves as a role model, epitomizing personal health and fitness, enjoyment of activity, sportsmanship and sensitivity to the needs of students. Other criteria for the award include utilizing various teaching methodologies, planning innovative learning experiences and conducting a balanced and sequential curriculum, according to a Carroll County Public Schools news release.
Hurst started teaching in 1994 and has also taught in Baltimore and Frederick Counties during her career before teaching in Carroll. This is her sixth year working as a teacher in the county.
During her career, Hurst has also received the Simon A McNeely award and is a four-time Outstanding Teacher Award nominee.
Linda Kephart, supervisor of health and physical education, said Hurst is one of the school system's lead high school health curriculum writers. She's passionate about the topic and her students and often uses hands-on activities and role playing in class.
"She gives her students the knowledge and skills to make healthy choices," Kephart said.
Since first starting at Westminster High School, Hurst has grown the enrollment of the elective Health 2 class. Over the summer, she and two other high school health teachers - Sal Picataggi and Jeremy Davis - wrote the curriculum for a Health 3 course, which has or will be piloted this school year at Liberty, Winters Mill and Westminster.
At Westminster High, around 100 students are already signed up for Health 3, which is offered in three sections next semester.
Senior Jared Vance plans to go into engineering, but that didn't stop him from being one of the first students to enroll in the new Health 3 course.
He originally only took Health 2 with Hurst because he wanted to become CPR certified, but Vance said the experience was fun and interesting. Hurst often allows students to relate the class material to their own interests.
"It's teaching me good life skills ... that will be good for me anywhere I go," he said.
Her class is a warm environment and the door is always open if you need anything, Vance said. He believes the award is well deserved.
"She's a fantastic teacher and a blast to be around," he said.
Hurst said every one of her lessons is relevant to the students. She talks about topics such as substance abuse, nutrition, family life, consumer health and diseases and disorders. They talk about how choices they make now can have an impact on the rest of their lives.
She tells students they must be their own advocate in their personal wellness.
"I tell them, 'I know you're facing things I didn't have to face,'" she said. "The challenges you're facing today are greater.'"
Her classroom is filled with posters and the walls are filled with sayings, such as "Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it." She changed the seating in her room from desks to tables and chairs to create a more cooperative learning environment.
Hurst said she is honored to have received the award and work in a field where she feels she's making an important impact.
"It's just really rewarding," she said.
Helton said Hurst is enthusiastic about what she teaches. He also attends her seminars that promote healthy relationships between parents and teenagers.
"I've been to almost every one," he said.
She doesn't, however, project her opinions on her students, Helton said.
"I never met a kid who didn't enjoy having her as a teacher," he said.
Simon McNeely Awards
Not only do the Simon McNeely Award winners teach in Carroll County Public Schools, but they personally know what it's like to be a student in the school system.
Three South Carroll High School graduates - physical education teachers Michael Golden and Connie Wuenschel Tumulty and health teacher Jessica Reid - all received the Simon McNeely Award from the Maryland Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
The award is presented to teachers who demonstrate outstanding teaching, service and innovation in health, physical education, recreation or dance, according to a school system news release.
Golden, a physical education teacher at Oklahoma Road Middle School, has been nominated for the Carroll County Outstanding Teacher Award for two years, has coached varsity soccer for the past 13 years in the county and serves as a mentor teacher to interns from McDaniel College and Towson University. As a teacher of 10 years, he said it's nice to be recognized for his hard work.
He and the other physical education teachers at Oklahoma Road started morning clubs that run throughout the school year. As many as 100 students will get to school early to participate in different activities, such as basketball, soccer and flag football.
"It's easier for parents to get them here in the morning than the afternoon," he said.
It's important for Golden to help students find an activity that they enjoy and will keep participating in for the rest of their lives.
"We're just trying to promote a healthy lifestyle," he said. "We promote working out seven days a week, 60 minutes a day."
Even though not many county middle schools offer wrestling, Oklahoma Road not only offers the sport, but also has opened participation up to girls as well. Golden said the girls are taught everything that the boys are taught in their wrestling unit.
"We have over 300 girls that wrestle," he said.
Golden is a dedicated teacher who cares about every student, Kephart said.
"He's so in tune to the students," she said. "He thinks, 'What's another lifetime activity we could expose them to?'"
Tumulty, a physical education teacher at Taneytown Elementary, has also been nominated for the Carroll County Outstanding Teacher Award. She was also named a MAHPERD Emerging Leader and was an integral part in Taneytown Elementary being named a Maryland Physical Education Demonstration school.
Tumulty has been teaching for seven years and wants to expose her students to as many activities as possible, she said.
"My philosophy is just about loving the kids and giving them the opportunities they might not otherwise receive," she said.
Tumulty organized a community 5K run, which she described as a fun family fitness event. She had more than 170 people register.
She holds after-school fitness clubs where students are allowed to play all types of games.
"I don't want to cater to the athletes. I want every kid to love PE," she said.
She was surprised and humbled to win the Simon McNeely award.
"I just feel so blessed that I have the job that I have," she said. "For anyone to think I was doing a good job, that was an honor."
Kephart said Tumulty is always thanking her students for good behavior, sharing the physical education equipment and being good sports, for instance.
She is innovative with her program and engages the community beyond her work as a teacher. Tumulty is the varsity lacrosse coach at Francis Scott Key High School and serves as a youth lacrosse coach in the Taneytown community.
Kephart said she also helps organize Family Math Night and was the lead curriculum writer for the Carroll County pre-kindergarten physical education program.
"Now we have it in all the schools that have pre-k," she said.
Jessica Reid, a seven-year health teacher who works at Eldersburg Elementary, is known for her use of technology in the classroom. In the school, she is a member of her School Improvement Team and serves as a county health Professional Learning Community leader.
In 2011, Reid received the national Blue Apple Health Education Award, which recognizes school and community collaboration supporting health education.
At her school, she is involved with Project Active Children Excel in School, or ACES, and has a fitness club for students. She recently expanded that and now holds a fitness club for staff members.
"The staff enjoyed it," she said. "We had a bigger turnout than I expected."
Reid uses a lot of technology in her classroom, such as a SmartBoard and active votes. She has her students take part in hands-on group work and take brain breaks, where they get up and become active during class.
"I feel like with kids, it's so important to keep them moving because they get antsy," she said.
Since the health field is always changing, she enjoys having the Internet available to show them different topics or explain things further, Reid said.
"There are so many interactive websites and they love it," she said.
Reid describes herself as surprised but happy to win the Simon McNeely award.
"It's nice to be acknowledged, especially by your peers," she said.
Kephart said only about half a dozen schools in the nation are referred to as Blue Apple schools. Reid is innovative with the curriculum and incorporates technology where it's appropriate.
The foundation of health education is giving children the knowledge and skills to make good choices, so it's important they practice such skills.
"Hopefully it becomes a part of their decision-making abilities," she said.