It was the Harford County Council's turn Tuesday night to honor Milken Educator Award winner Thomas Dennison.
Dennison, a fifth grade teacher at Havre de Grace Elementary School, received a proclamation and high praise from council members at the start of their legislative session in Bel Air.
He was named a national Milken Award winner in early December, one of only 35 nationwide honored during the 2016-17 school year, according to the Milken Family Foundation which established the award to recognize outstanding teachers in the early and middle stages of their career. The award has a cash prize of $25,000.
The teacher was joined by his wife and two of their daughters, Havre de Grace Elementary Principal Ronald Wooden and Harford School Superintendent Barbara Canavan, as Councilman Curtis Beulah, who represents Havre de Grace, presented the proclamation honoring Dennison on behalf of the council.
The council proclamation recognizes Dennison, who has spent his entire 14-year career at Havre de Grace Elementary, for "his dedication to his students, his commitment to the community and high education standards that have created a fun learning environment for his students." It also commends him for his "dedication to the education of Harford County students in the future."
"Wow," said Beulah after the proclamation has been read by Council Vice President James McMahan.
"Thomas, as we said, is a fifth grade teacher, and if you haven't seen him in action, you should," the councilman said. "His students love him. If I were a fifth grader, well, even if I wasn't, I would have fun in his class. He's just a shining example of the quality educators we have in our school system in Harford County."
In addition to the proclamation, Beulah game Dennison one of the council's "challenge coins," just the 13th ever awarded since, according to the councilman, who said the coins are given only "to very, very, very special people."
Dennison, with an ever present pencil in his ear, thanked the council and recognized his mother, who was sitting in the audience, and thanked his father, who he said was home baby-sitting their two youngest daughters, ages 1 and 2, "and you wouldn't want them here."
After growing up and Army brat and moving every three years, Dennison said he and his family have found the perfect place to live in Harford County.
"Harford County has just become a home, a perfect little America," he said.
He also gave an enthusiastic thanks to his principal and to the council, especially for the challenge coin, saying: "How cool these are…I know I should give this [microphone] up, but this is so cool."
Canavan said she has congratulated Dennison a number of times, "and I hope I have a hundred, a thousand times more to say the same. Thank you for all you do for our kids, thank you."