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Harford schools' Johnson honored as state's top social studies instructional leader

Social studies award
(Courtesy of Jillian Lader, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Kate Johnson, a social studies curriculum specialist for Harford County Public Schools, was recently named Social Studies Instructional Leader of the Year by the Maryland Council for Social Studies.

Johnson's achievement was recognized at Monday night's meeting of the Harford County Board of Education, where she was presented with a certificate by Superintendent Barbara Canavan and Board President Nancy Reynolds.

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"I too have had the pleasure of working with Kate, and she is fantastic; this is a well deserved honor," Reynolds said.

Each year, the Maryland Council for Social Studies honors individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to social studies education in the state, including contributions of an outstanding instructional leader, school officials said. The nominee must be a social studies supervisor, resource teacher or other instructional leader in a Maryland school system who has made outstanding contributions to curriculum and/or resource development, teacher professional development or systemwide organization.

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Johnson was nominated by her boss, HCPS Supervisor of Social Studies, George Toepfer, who received the award in 2013 and joined her for Monday's recognition.

"I couldn't think of anyone who is more deserving," he said.

"I am honored to receive this award and have my work honored," Johnson said.

Johnson has provided professional development for Harford County Public Schools middle and high school department chairs in the process of observation in the social studies classroom, the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the C3 Standards, as well as the use of primary sources in the classroom and historical thinking skills, according to school officials.

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She has also planned and implemented professional development on a countywide basis for elementary, middle, and high school teachers and has served as the project manager overseeing the revision and editing of the HCPS United States history program. This work includes the co-authoring, field-testing, and revision of a curriculum unit that focuses on the use of the book, "Triangle: The Fire that Changed America" by David Von Drehle, about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire in Manhattan that killed 146 garment workers, the majority of them immigrant women.

"Ms. Johnson is highly respected by teachers and administrators in our school system because of her ability to provide thoughtful and effective professional learning," an HCPS statement reads. "Her organizational skills are outstanding; allowing her to handle multiple projects with focus and efficiency. Her communication skills have allowed her to work effectively with a variety of stakeholders in Harford County Public Schools. Ms. Johnson is the consummate professional and can be counted upon to lead by example and be front and center in the delivery and discussion of effective Social Studies education. She consistently elevates the work of people around her; probably the most complimentary statement that can be provided to a leader."

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