Manchester Valley High School English teacher Tina Thomen might not have started her career in education, but deep down that desire to help others learn was always there.
"I know it sounds a little cheesy but when I was a kid, I played school. I would teach to my pets," she said, laughing. "I think it was just always in my blood that I had to be a teacher."
Thomen has been employeed in Carroll County Public Schools for 11 years now — nine of which have been spent at Manchester Valley. She was there when the doors opened as a part of the original staff.
But for more than a decade before her time teaching, Thomen worked in banking, spending time as a branch manager before beginning to volunteer in schools and participate in a job shadowing program, where high school students would shadow her to see what she did. She also would go and speak to classes, including a few times at North Carroll High School, she said.
Thomen said she enjoyed getting to work with the kids, and knew it was time for a change.
"I just loved their energy," she said.
More than a decade later, Thomen's love of helping high schoolers learn has led her to being named as the Carroll County Public Schools 2018 Teacher of the Year.
Thomen said part of her decision to go into teaching was due to her own children. Her son was always involved, in AP classes and participated in extra curricular activities. For her daughter, who has special needs, school came more difficultly, Thomen said.
"I just saw that no matter what end of the spectrum you are [on] as a student, I think you need both support and high expectations," she said.
On the Friday after the announcement, Thomen sat in her Manchester Valley classroom, balloons floating near the door. At one point in the afternoon, she was brought more balloons and an Edible Arrangement. The whole time, a smile sprawled on her face, her eyes glowing with energy.
Thomen said all day people had been congratulatory and excited. It's been "so sweet," she said of the school's support.
"I just feel humbled more than anything else," she said.
On her floor, in the school alone, she said, there are so many outstanding teachers. When she found out she was chosen, Thomen said she wanted to share it with everyone.
Manchester Valley Assistant Principal Betsy Donovan said Thomen's smile and energy on Friday weren't from the announcement Thursday night — Thomen is always that happy, Donovan said, adding that there's nothing she isn't willing to teach.
"She's incredible," Donovan said.
Thomen has seen Manchester Valley from its start to its transition with moving North Carroll High School students there, Donovan said, and she has been great in bringing the two departments together.
She's a pillar at the school, Donovan said, adding that she's so passionate about the students.
Donovan said she wasn't at all surprised Thomen was chosen — it was long overdue, she said. And while there are many amazing educators in Manchester Valley, she added, it's great to have one of them recognized.
Simply put, Donovan said in speaking about Thomen, "she rocks."
But while the recognition is nice, Thomen doesn't do her job for awards.
"With all my heart, it's the kids. It's the kids, they're hilarious," she said.
And she doesn't just teach. Thomen has run the school's newspaper club since the building opened, she's the English Department Chair/Content Liaison and she started the National English Honor Society at Manchester Valley High School.
She has served as a lead curriculum writer and an AP Language and Composition Reader for the Educational Testing Service, according to a news release from CCPS. She also mentors student teachers and interns from Carroll Community College and McDaniel College and is a lead professional developer in the area of English Language Arts.
Thomen said people thought she was insane when she said she wanted to teach high schoolers. People think teenagers are angst-filled and moody, she said. But not her.
"I find them honest. They're more honest than any creature on this earth. They make me laugh. They make me think. They make me feel," Thomen said. "Just their energy. That's what gets me going."