Jena Ehmann had no complaints about her first week of teaching.
The reading specialist at Winfield Elementary School chose to work from home as Carroll County embarked on its enhanced virtual learning journey to begin the 2020-21 school year. Ehmann, in her 13th year as a Carroll County Public Schools teacher, praised her students for adapting to the changes while not being able to attend class in person.
Ehmann ended last school in May by being named the county’s Teacher of the Year, and she’s beginning a new year with another award ― Ehmann learned this week she’s one of seven finalists for Maryland Teacher of the Year.
“It has been a wonderful start to the year, and then to have this announcement to kind of kick it off ... I felt really, really lucky,” she said. “I won the minute somebody nominated me. This is all just wonderful, extra experiences that I get to kind of continue to speak to everything we do here in Carroll County. It’s been a privilege.”
Ehmann’s opening week was a full one. After getting through the first four days of school, Ehmann was scheduled for Saturday with the state’s teacher of the year panel for a virtual interview through Google Meet.
The interview includes a keynote speech of sorts for each finalist, and Ehmann said she has more than enough material to lean on. Creating a successful learning experience amid the pandemic is the main goal for this year, she said.
“We wants kids to learn. I think the positive we can take from this whole experience that we’re going through is that maybe, for the first time in a really long time, all of us adults, we kind of feel what it’s like to be a student,” Ehmann said. “The fact that we’re learning at the exact same time they are, I personally think that this is a memorable moment in my teaching career that I’ll never forget. It’s cool to feel like we are all truly in this learning environment at the same time.”
Ehmann is a Carroll County Public Schools product who earned undergraduate and master’s degrees at McDaniel College. She organizes “Winfield Reads,” an annual initiative supported by community members and attended by hundreds of students and staff.
Ehmann is a team leader and School Improvement Team co-chair. Her professional contributions include work as a county curriculum writer, and she’s vice president of the Carroll County Literacy Chapter. Ehmann is involved in several other educational organizations, including the State of Maryland Literacy Association.
Ehmann taught at Cranberry Station Elementary, and was a literacy tutor and teacher at Elmer Wolfe Elementary before joining Winfield’s staff in 2014.
Winfield Principal Katie Purper nominated Ehmann for Carroll County Teacher of the Year last spring, and in her recommendation letter said the students are first and foremost in any of Ehmann’s educational decisions.
“The one thing that we do know for certain is that we can do this. We can find joy in it and be excited about the fact that it’s the beginning of the school year.”
Jena Ehmann, Carroll County Teacher of the Year who is a finalist for Maryland Teacher of the Year
Share quote & link
Ehmann said she’s glad to see teachers, students, and parents coming together to make the most of the virtual learning experience.
“The one thing that we do know for certain is that we can do this,” she said. “We can find joy in it and be excited about the fact that it’s the beginning of the school year.”
Steve Lockard, superintendent of schools, recognized Ehmann at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting. The announcement of her being one of seven finalists for Maryland Teacher of the Year drew some applause, and Lockard pointed out that Ehmann is the fourth county teacher in as many years to be up for the state’s top honor.
“We’re very proud of all of your accomplishments,” Lockard said. “We wish you well as go through the selection process for Maryland Teacher of the Year. ... We have no doubt she will shine in that.”
Ehmann said she’s excited and a bit nervous to endure the selection process, and she’ll know of the results in less than a month ― the winner is set to be unveiled Oct. 8 during a special program on Maryland Public Television. The ceremony will also be streamed live on MPT’s YouTube channel.
The winner 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.