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Harford County

Harford County schools announce top 5 finalists for Teacher of the Year award

Harford County Public Schools has announced its top 5 finalists for the 2019 Teacher of the Year award and they are Rebecca Martinek, Paige Milanoski, Kristie Smith, Kathleen Thompson and Dawn Zipay.

The Teacher of the Year judging committee scored all nomination packets to determine a pool of candidates to interview with a panel of seven judges. Those judges then narrowed the field to the top five finalists.


One of these individuals will be announced as the 2019 Harford County Teacher of the Year at a banquet April 3 at the Bayou Restaurant in Havre de Grace. The winner will then be in the running for the state teacher of the year award.

Rebecca Martinek, North Harford Middle School, Science Teacher.

Martinek, a biology teacher at North Harford Middle School, has 15 years of experience teaching middle school life science. She has a bachelor's degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Notre Dame of Maryland University.


“She is passionate about generating engaging and meaningful classroom discussions and experiences for all her students,” according to a new release from the school system announcing the finalists. Martinek “is a driving force behind students being actively engaged in science and participating in a schoolwide Science Fair. As a former scientist in a neurology lab, she brings real life experiences into the classroom to share with her students.”

Paige Milanoski, Havre de Grace High School, English Teacher.

Milanoski, has spent 19 of her 20 years as an educator in Harford County schools, currently teaching English at Havre de Grace High School. Milanoski, who earned a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in Secondary Education, from Elizabethtown College in 1999, and a Master of Arts Equivalency in Reading in 2009 after completing coursework at both Towson University and University of Phoenix.

“[She] has enjoyed being an English, Strategic Reading, and Drama I teacher for all high school grade levels,” according to the release. In addition to teaching, Milanoski actively sponsors the Havre de Grace High School chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.).

Kristie Smith, Edgewood Middle School, Science Teacher.

Smith began her career with Teach for America in 2012 before returning home to Harford County to teach science at Edgewood Middle School, where she served as Science Department Chair and member of the School Performance Achievement, Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, and curriculum teams. Smith earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Salisbury University in 2010 and a Master of Science in Education from Johns Hopkins University in 2017.

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“Leading environmental initiatives at Edgewood Middle has fueled her passion for empowering students,” according to the release. “Her accomplishments include being named Green Teacher of the Year, receiving a citation from the Maryland General Assembly, successful naming of Rams Creek, and presenting in the HCPS Ignite Showcases.”

Kathleen Thompson, Ring Factory/Joppatowne Elementary Schools, Gifted and Talented Teacher.

Thompson is in her 19th year as an accomplished fifth grade teacher and is currently the Gifted and Talented teacher at Ring Factory and Joppatowne elementary schools. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 2000, a Master of Science in Instructional Technology in 2005 and is a very proud alumni of NASA’s Space Camp for Educators.

Thompson leads National Board Candidate Support Sessions and presents school- and county-based professional development, according to the release, and won the HCPS Curriculum Award consecutively in 2017 and 2018. She also obtained Middle School English Language Arts Certification in 2007, National Board Certification in the area of Middle School Generalist in 2011, and Administrator I Certification in 2014.

Dawn Zipay, Ring Factory Elementary School, Music Teacher.

Zipay is a National Board Certified Instrumental Music Teacher at Ring Factory Elementary. She holds a Bachelor of Music from State University of New York Potsdam (1997) and a Master of Science from The College of Saint Rose (2002), both in music education.

“Her passion for students, music, and teaching extends throughout the county as she directs musical and variety shows, serves on the School Performance and Achievement Team, Scheduling Committee, and Music Program Committee,” according to the release.

Outside of school, Zipay is Principal Horn of the Susquehanna Symphony and Nova Ensemble and is an adjunct faculty member at Harford Community College.