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Harford County 2020 Teacher of the Year finalists announced

Five Harford County Public Schools’ teachers have been named finalists to be crowned the 2020 Harford County Teacher of the Year in April.

They are: Karen Gonzalez, a special education teacher at Magnolia Middle; Jennifer Knoll, a science teacher at Edgewood Middle; Erinn Ragan, a fourth-grader teacher Ring Factory Elementary; Melissa Van Ruiten, a third-grade teacher at Youth’s Benefit Elementary; and Elizabeth White, a social studies teacher at Harford Technical High School.

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This year’s Teacher of the Year Judging Committee reviewed and scored all nomination packets to determine a pool of candidates that participated in an interview with a panel of six judges. The judges then narrowed the pool to the top five finalists.

A surprise announcement of the winner will take place at the annual Harford County Teacher of the Year Banquet scheduled for Wednesday, April 1, at the Bayou Restaurant in Havre de Grace.

Karen Gonzalez, a special education teacher at Magnolia Middle, is one of five finalists for the 2020 Harford County Teacher of the Year.
Karen Gonzalez, a special education teacher at Magnolia Middle, is one of five finalists for the 2020 Harford County Teacher of the Year. (Courtesy HCPS)

Karen Gonzalez

Karen Gonzalez is a 23-year veteran special educator for Harford County Public Schools, according to a news release from the school system. She began teaching daily skills at North Harford Middle School and now teaches life skills at Magnolia Middle School. She graduated from Joppatowne High School in 1992 and Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in Special Education. In 2005, she received her master’s degree in Reading from Loyola University.

At Magnolia Middle School, Gonzalez serves on the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support committee. She is a mentor to others in her department and for student interns from local colleges. Gonzalez is also a high school swim coach.

Jennifer Knoll, a science teacher at Edgewood Middle, is one of five finalists for the 2020 Harford County Teacher of the Year.
Jennifer Knoll, a science teacher at Edgewood Middle, is one of five finalists for the 2020 Harford County Teacher of the Year. (Courtesy HCPS)

Jennifer Knoll

Jennifer Knoll is currently in her eighth year of teaching in Harford County, according to the news release. At Edgewood Middle School, she shares her love for Earth and space science with her sixth-grade students. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Towson University in 2002, and a master’s degree in School Improvement Leadership from Goucher College in 2019.

Knoll currently serves as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support liaison on the School Performance and Achievement team, coordinator for the Jump Start program for sixth graders, Peaceful Alternatives coordinator, and co-leader of the Ecology Club and Green School Initiative.

Erinn Ragan, a fourth-grader teacher Ring Factory Elementary, is one of five finalists for the 2020 Harford County Teacher of the Year.
Erinn Ragan, a fourth-grader teacher Ring Factory Elementary, is one of five finalists for the 2020 Harford County Teacher of the Year. (Courtesy HCPS)

Erinn Ragan

Erinn Ragan is an educator who strives to build lasting, positive relationships not only with her students and their families, but also with her community, according to the news release. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Liberty University in 2000, and her master’s in Technology from Walden University in 2009.

A 20-year veteran of Harford County Public Schools, Ragan has taught third, fourth and fifth grade; she currently teaches fourth grade at Ring Factory Elementary School. Throughout her career, Ragan has served as a mentor teacher, grade level chair and on the School Performance and Assessment team.

Melissa Van Ruiten, a third-grade teacher at Youth’s Benefit Elementary, is one of five finalists for the 2020 Harford County Teacher of the Year.
Melissa Van Ruiten, a third-grade teacher at Youth’s Benefit Elementary, is one of five finalists for the 2020 Harford County Teacher of the Year. (Courtesy HCPS)

Melissa Van Ruiten

Melissa Van Ruiten is in her 11th year with Harford County Public Schools, according to the release. She received her graduate degree through Towson University’s Master of Teaching program. Van Ruiten has served as a classroom teacher, as well as a mentor teacher for the county. She is currently a third-grade teacher at Youth’s Benefit Elementary School.

In 2016, Van Ruiten became a National Board Certified Teacher. Most recently, she completed a Master’s+ 30 program to achieve Administrator I certification. Van Ruiten’s favorite part of teaching is the joy of laughter found in each day, according to the release.

Elizabeth White, a social studies teacher at Harford Technical High School, is one of five finalists for the 2020 Harford County Teacher of the Year.
Elizabeth White, a social studies teacher at Harford Technical High School, is one of five finalists for the 2020 Harford County Teacher of the Year. (Courtesy HCPS)

Elizabeth White

Elizabeth White is a graduate of Towson University where she received a bachelor’s degree in History and Secondary Education, and a master’s in Instructional Leadership. White has been teaching in Harford County Public Schools for 12 years. She previously taught at Edgewood High School and is currently teaching at Harford Technical High School.

She was the co-winner of a curriculum award in 2015 and is currently working toward National Board certification. She is dedicated to her school community through her work with the Student Government Association. White has also served the Social Studies and Technology offices to provide professional development and in the creation of new curricula and assessments.

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