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Harford Magazine

Best of Harford County 2022

Need a roofer or dentist? Looking to join a gym? What about a recommendation for kids’ activities?

The Best of Harford County can help. More than 90,000 votes were cast in this year’s readers’ poll, culling a list of the 78 top people to know, places to go and things to do.

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Editor’s note: Winners and honorable mentions were determined by popular vote. Readers were invited to nominate and vote online in October and November.


Out & About

Annual festival/event

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Winner: St. Margaret Fall Festival

Honorable mentions:

Bel Air Festival of the Arts

BBQ Bash

Darlington Apple Festival

Art studio/gallery

Winner: Amazing Glaze

Honorable mention:

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Harford Artists Gallery

Charity/nonprofit

Winner: The Humane Society of Harford County

Honorable mentions:

Volun-Teen Leo

Harford Family House

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SARC (tie)

Shadow Cats TNR (tie)

Kids activity

Winner: The Playroom

Honorable mentions:

The Arena Club

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Anita C. Leight Estuary Center

Ripken Baseball

Museum

Winner: Eden Mill Nature Center

Honorable mentions:

Steppingstone Farm Museum

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Anita C. Leight Estuary Center

Historical Society of Harford County

Park/outdoor sport

Winner: Ma & Pa Heritage Trail

Honorable mentions:

Annie’s Playground

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Ripken Baseball

Millard Tydings Memorial Park

Private school

Winner: The John Carroll School

Honorable mentions:

St. Margaret School

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The Highlands School

Harford Day School

Rainy-day activity

Winner: The Playroom

Honorable mentions:

Harford County Public Library: Abingdon

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Jurassic Golf and Arcade

The Arena Club

Special events venue

The Liriodendron Mansion

502 W. Gordon St., Bel Air. 410-879-4424. liriondendron.com

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Downton Abbey in Bel Air? The Liriodendron Mansion, the 1898 Palladian manor built by Dr. John Kelly, one of the four founding physicians of Johns Hopkins Hospital, is a throwback to the era of great houses that served as single-family homes and were maintained by servants.

Now owned by Harford County, Liriodendron is on the National Register of Historic Places. The 100-acre property includes a barn, carriage house, corn crib, smokehouse and two ice houses. Today, the mansion makes room for a museum devoted to Native American culture and an art gallery. It is open to the public for free on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Liriondendron is also a favorite venue for weddings and upscale private events and is known for its wisteria-covered terrace.

“There’s no other place like it in Harford County,” said Leslie Dohler, the facility’s manager. “It’s a historic and architectural treasure, and it’s in virtually original condition. I feel privileged to be caring for it.”

Honorable mentions:

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Rockfield Manor

Vignon Manor Farm

Cultural Center at the Opera House


Food & Drink

Beer, wine and/or liquor store

Rocks Liquors

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1514 Rock Spring Road, Forest Hill, 410-879-7964. ronniesbeverage.com

It’s more than a place to buy six-packs or that favorite bottle of wine. At Rocks, they help folks plan weddings, choose from 1,000 craft beers and even locate a rare, 40-year-old single malt Scotch that might cost $15,000.

“We sell service, and we treat customers like gold,” said Jay Gernand, who owns the store recently renamed Rocks. Here, in a hangar-sized 11,000-square-foot warehouse, are aisle after aisle of alcoholic libations and a staff of more than 20 to help refine your tastes.

“We’re a one-stop shop,” said Gernand, 67, who has been in the liquor business for nearly 50 years. Community-driven, the family-run store offers discounts to seniors, military personnel, firefighters and police; donates altar wines to local churches; and gifts funds to area charities.

“We get Christmas cards and thank-you notes,” said Gernand, who won’t rest on those laurels. “There’s always room for improvement.”

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Honorable mentions:

Bel Air Liquors

Hopkins Farm Brewery

Friendship Wine & Liquor

Caterer

Winner: Sunny Day Cafe

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Honorable mentions:

Pairings Bistro

Liberatore’s Ristorante & Catering

Basta Pasta

Farmers market/stand

Winner: Bel Air Farmers’ Market

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Honorable mentions:

Brad’s Farm Market

Harman’s Farm Market

Wilson’s Farm Market

Grocery store

Winner: Wegman’s

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Honorable mentions:

Redner’s

ShopRite

Aldi

Vineyard/winery

Winner: Harford Vineyard & Winery

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Honorable mention:

Fiore Winery & Distillery


Shopping

Antiques

Winner: Belle Patri

Honorable mentions:

The Green Door

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JoRetro

Bayside Antiques

Bridal shop

Winner: K&B Bridals

Honorable mention:

Edel’s Bridal Boutique

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Car dealership

Winner: Jones Junction

Honorable mentions:

Boyle Buick GMC

Keene Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram

Heritage Honda Bel Air

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Clothing boutique

Bray & Em Boutique

In the Harford Mall: 696 Belair Road, Bel Air. 410-838-8760. brayandemboutique.com

Ashley Owings never wanted to make her living selling anything, and she couldn’t care less if her customers buy her clothes. No wonder Bray & Em Boutique — named in honor of Owings’ children, Braden, 4 and Emily, 6 — has been so successful.

Owings has a background working with people with disabilities and was determined her boutique would make all customers feel comfortable. Her clothing covers the vast range of sizes from extra-small to triple extra-curvy and there are no signs separating “petites” from “Misses” or “women.”

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“We tear apart the stigmas,” Owings said.

“We don’t define our customers by their size and we don’t have signs telling them what part of the store they should shop in. We don’t put mirrors in dressing rooms. We want our customers to come onto the floor and look at themselves. Inevitably, some stranger will say, ‘Oh, you look really good. Where did you find that?’

“We help to change the inner person.”

Honorable mentions:

Stalefish Board Co.

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Painted Daisy Marketplace

John’s Men’s Clothing

Consignment shop/resale shop

Winner: Belle Patri

Honorable mentions:

Painted Daisy Marketplace

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The Mannequin On Main LLC

Kia’s Korner

Furniture store

Winner: Ryan Furniture Co.

Honorable mentions:

Belle Patri

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Jarrettsville Furniture

Simply Grande Home Furnishings & Simply Grande Interiors

Gift shop

Winner: The Nest on Main

Honorable mentions:

Farmhouse On Main

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Full Heart Soul~utions

Explorganics Plant Shop

Jeweler

Winner: Saxon’s Diamond Centers

Honorable mentions:

F & L Jewelers Inc.

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Faye Daniel Designs Bridal Jewelry and Accessories


Home

Flooring and carpeting

Winner: Bel Air Carpet

Honorable mentions:

Carpets By Denny Lee

Top Notch Flooring America

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Bay State Carpet & Flooring

Garden center/nursery

Winner: The Mill of Bel Air

Honorable mentions:

Griers Nursery & Greenhouses

The HydroFarm Inc.

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Home improvement contractor

Winner: Tar Heel Construction Group LLC

Honorable mentions:

First Impressions Contracting

T.W. Ellis LLC

American Design and Build

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Homebuilder

Winner: Taylorbilt Homes Inc.

Honorable mentions:

Bel Air Construction

Huskins Builders Inc.

Battaglia Homes LLC

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Housecleaning service

Winner: Cornerstone Cleaning

Honorable mentions:

Kelsi’s Cleaning Service

The Cleaning Authority

Tru-shine Cleaning Solutions

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Interior designer/decorator

Winner: Farmhouse On Main

Honorable mentions:

B and M Cabinetry Plus

Maryland Dream Kitchens & Baths LLC

Landscaper

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Winner: Lawnscape

Honorable mentions:

Chesapeake Landscapes LLC

Ivy Hill Land Services

Turf Connection

Mortgage company

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Winner: Drew Gilmartin, First Home Mortgage

Honorable mentions:

Chesapeake Bank of Maryland

MBA Mortgage Services Inc.

Sierra Pacific Mortgage

Plumber

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Winner: PlumbCrazy

Honorable mentions:

Newberry Plumbing

White Hall Plumbing & Hydronics

Edgar Plumbing

Roofing

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Tar Heel Construction Group

1212 E. Churchville Road, Bel Air, 410-638-7021. tarheelconstructiongroup.com

No matter the size or shape of the dwelling, Joe Ayler can put a lid on it.

“We’ve roofed everything from double-wide trailers to $10 million mansions,” said Ayler, owner of Tar Heel Construction. The seven-year-old firm has covered nearly 10,000 area homes, including the Padonia residence of former Ravens’ general manager Ozzie Newsome. Clients praise the workmanship, efficiency and follow-up service of the company that has rooted itself in the community.

Each year, Ayler and his team provide a free roof to an area nonprofit. Last year, it was Chesapeake Therapeutic Riding, in Abingdon; this year, the Harford County Chamber of Commerce gets a new crown.

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“The more involved in the county we are, the more trust we create,” said Ayler, who sits on the board of several local nonprofit organizations. A Bel Air native, he named the business not for the University of North Carolina mascot, but for the tar paper long used in roofing.

“It’s a play on words that helps people remember our name,” he said.

Honorable mentions:

G J Goss Contracting Inc.

American Design And Build Ltd.

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TSW Roofing Solutions Inc.

Waste/recycling company

Winner: Bartenfelder Sanitation Services

Honorable mentions:

Harford County Trash Services

Denver Companies

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Recreation

Dance lessons

Winner: Raise The Barre, Studio of Dance

Honorable mentions:

Supernova Dance Company

The John Carroll Ballet Academy

Dance With Me School of Dance

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Golf course

Geneva Farm Golf Course

217 Davis Road, Street, 410-452-8800. www.genevafarmgolf.com

Spruced-up fairways, lusher greens and low fees have resonated with duffers at this layout in Street, which opened in 1990.

“Course conditions have improved dramatically in the past three years,” manager Amy Walls said. “We’ve listened to golfers and catered to what they want. The greens are greener year-round, and we’ve trimmed a lot of trees they said were in their way, making it more pleasant for them to play.”

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The pandemic has also helped business, Walls said, bringing whole families outdoors to hike the course and hack away.

“Play has increased dramatically during COVID. You see kids as young as 5 years old, tagging along with their parents,” she said. “We’re laid back. Whether you’re good at golf or just starting out, you feel comfortable here.”

Geneva Farm also boasts a driving range, putting green and restaurant with menu items such as “The Back Nine” (a tuna melt) and “The Chip Shot” (tortilla chips with cheese).

Honorable mentions:

Maryland Golf & Country Clubs

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Mountain Branch Golf Club

Bulle Rock Golf Course

Gym/fitness center

Winner: Bel Air Athletic Club

Honorable mentions:

The Arena Club

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GameChanger Fitness

Limitless Fitness

Martial arts classes

Winner: U.S. Taekwondo Academy

Honorable mention:

Aiki Martial Arts Institute

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Music lessons

Winner: Music Land

Honorable mention:

Stone House Jam Academy

Swim club

Winner: The Arena Club

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Honorable mentions:

Bel Air Athletic Club

Fountain Green Swim Club

Rock Spring Swim Club Inc.

Yoga classes

Winner: Yoga Centric

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Honorable mentions:

True Yoga

Love Evolution Studio

The Arena Club


Health & Wellness

Alternative wellness center

Winner: Salt Works Spa

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Honorable mentions:

Serenity Salt Spa

Fyzical Therapy and Balance Centers

Lavish Salon & Spa

Audiologist

Winner: Bay Area Audiology

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Honorable mention:

Beltone Hearing Care Center

Chiropractor

Winner: Optimal Spine Chiropractic

Honorable mentions:

Premier Chiropractic

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Robert Poane, Dr. Poane’s Chiropractic Office

Healthbridge Chiropractic and Rehabilitation

Day spa

Winner: Salt Works Spa

Honorable mentions:

Spa on The Boulevard

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Jordan Thomas Salon & Spa

With Love Beauty Bar & Studios

Dental practice

Winner: Laurel Bush Family Dentistry

Honorable mentions:

Bel Air Smile Partners

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Smith & Co. Dental Practitioners

Aesthetic Family Dentistry Of Bel Air

Dispensary

Winner: Rev Canna Dispensary

Honorable mention:

RISE Medical Marijuana Dispensary

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Eye care

Winner: Seidenberg Protzko Eye Associates

Honorable mentions:

Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine Bel Air

MyEyeDr.

Katzen Eye Group

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Medispa

Winner: Seidenberg Protzko Aesthetics

Honorable mentions:

Dr. Brent Birely, Plastic & Cosmetic Surgeon

Cannon Dermatology LLC

Chesapeake Skin Solutions

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OB/GYN

Winner: Upper Chesapeake Women’s Care

Honorable mentions:

Susquehanna OB/GYN and Nurse Midwifery

Capital Women’s Care

Orthodontist

Winner: Bel Air Orthodontics

Honorable mentions:

Dr. Joseph Laponzina

Amanda Gallagher Orthodontics

Bel Air Smile Partners

Orthopedic

Winner: Towson Orthopedic Associates

Honorable mentions:

Dr. John P. O’Hearn, Susquehanna Orthopedic Associates

Dr. Sean Curtin, MedStar Health at BelAir

Upper Chesapeake Orthopedic Specialty Group

Pediatric dentist

Winner: Growing Smiles

Honorable mentions:

Bel Air Pediatric Dentistry

Main Street Children’s Dentistry and Orthodontics

Chesapeake Pediatric Dental Group

Pediatric practice

Bright Oaks Pediatric Center

2111 Laurel Bush Road, Bel Air, 410-569-3300. brightoakspediatrics.com

Got a kid who’s sick at 3 a.m.? Bright Oaks will take your call. Need a same-day appointment for a feverish toddler? This is the place that can work you in.

“People love our accessibility,” said David Sulkowski, 42, the doctor who heads the Bel Air practice. Staff is available 24/7 for the nearly 6,000 patients who cherish their care. Some drive an hour or more, said Sulkowski, a retired Army pediatrician who, for four years, served the dependents of active-duty soldiers, mostly at a military base in South Korea.

“It was great training,” said Sulkowski, who retired a major and settled in his hometown “to take care of the children of people I grew up with.” Still, clients come from as far away as Baltimore City and are prone to stick with “Dr. Dave” and his staff until they turn 21.

Honorable mentions:

Bear Pediatrics

Pediatric Partners

MedStar Medical Group at Bel Air Medical Campus

Physical therapist

Winner: Agape Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation

Honorable mentions:

MedStar Health Physical Therapy at Bel Air

Fyzical Therapy and Balance Centers

Drayer Physical Therapy Institute (tie)

Smith & Prothero Physical and Occupational Therapy (tie)

Speech therapist

Winner: Maggie James, The Maryland Therapy Network

Honorable mention:

Three Little Birds Therapy

Urgent care

Winner: Patient First Primary and Urgent Care

Honorable mentions:

MedStar Health Urgent Care in Bel Air

Express Care

University of Maryland Urgent Care


Personal services

Accountant

Winner: DiNatale Accounting & Tax Services LLC

Honorable mentions:

James Rainwater CPA LLC

Jones Advisory LLC

KatzAbosch

Animal hospital

Winner: Chadwell Animal Hospital

Honorable mentions:

Jarrettsville Veterinary Center

Hickory Veterinary Hospital

Pleasantville Animal Hospital of Fallston

Auto repair

Winner: Jones Junction

Honorable mentions:

Del Haven Services Station

Forest Hill Automotive

Faby’s Auto Repair

Bank/credit union

Winner: Freedom Federal Credit Union

Honorable mentions:

Har-co Credit Union

APG Federal Credit Union

M&T Bank

Barbershop

Winner: Old Line Barbers

Honorable mentions:

Work of Art Barbershop

Brian Bunce Barbers

Axels Barbershop

Child care

Winner: Dee’s Little Learners

Honorable mentions:

The Arena Club

The Goddard School

HCC Early Learning Center

Doggie day care

Winner: Best Friends Fur Ever

Honorable mentions:

Barton Manor Kennels

PetSmart

Dry cleaner

Winner: ZIPS Dry Cleaners

Honorable mentions:

Kroh’s Cleaners

Amyclae Cleaners

Financial adviser

Winner: Harford Financial Group

Honorable mentions:

Kelly Financial Group LLC

James Rainwater CPA LLC

Akers Financial Group (tie)

Town Capital, Bel Air Financial Adviser (tie)

Florist

Winner: Richardson’s Flowers and Gifts

Honorable mentions:

Stacy Bowen Floral Design

Blush Floral Design Studio

Rosemary and Rue Florist

Hair salon

Jordan Thomas Salon & Spa

Two locations: 6 Bel Air S. Pkwy, Bel Air, and 1202C Agora Drive, Bel Air. 443-371-3600 or 443-567-7600. jordanthomassalonandspa.com

When Terry McGill opened her first hair salon in 1998 in a north Baltimore storefront no larger than a closet, she had no idea she was founding an empire.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, Jordan Thomas Salon & Spa operates in two locations and has stations for 20 stylists. In addition to standard cuts and blow drying, Jordan Thomas now offers services typically found at spas. You can get a facial, a chemical peel, a hot stone massage and a new hair highlighting technique known as balayage.

McGill is proud that Jordan Thomas keeps up with current beauty trends and trains its own stylists.

“Customers seem to like the culture here,” she said. “It’s upscale but approachable. It’s kind of like the atmosphere in [the former NBC sitcom] “Cheers” where everyone says hello when you walk in, and everyone knows your name.”

Honorable mentions:

Hair Network

Bella Vita Salon

NVS Salon & Spa

Pet groomer

Winner: Home Sweet Home Dog Grooming

Honorable mentions:

To Wag For

4 Paws Spa and Training Center

Burlane Cat & Dog Boutique

Real estate agent

Winner: CMD Home Group of Exp Realty

Honorable mentions:

Compass Home Group Real Estate

Amy Shertzer, American Premier Realty

Mary Jones of The Mary Jones Team

Senior care

Winner: Katherine’s Keepers

Honorable mentions:

Brightview Avondell, Senior Independent Living & Assisted Living

Bel Air Assisted Living | Senior Living & Memory Care

Broad Creek Manor Assisted Living

Tattoo parlor

Winner: Flesh Tattoo Company

Honorable mentions:

Dark Arts Tattoo Studio

Tattoo Dynasty

Instant History Tattoo & Art Gallery

Travel agency

Winner: Brenda Tackett, Marvelous Mouse Travels

Honorable mentions:

Travel Makers

Hurley World Travel

Veterinarian

Winner: Greenbrier Veterinary Clinic

Honorable mentions:

Chadwell Animal Hospital

Jarrettsville Veterinary Center

Churchville Veterinary Clinic (tie)

Hickory Veterinary Hospital (tie)


Personalities

Clergyperson

Winner: Msgr. Kevin Schenning, St. Margaret

Honorable mentions:

Rev. Wade Haskins, Freedom Church

Rev. Byron Brought, Bel Air United Methodist Church

Deacon Marty Perry, St. Mark Parish

Elected official

Winner: Tony Giangiordano, County Council

Honorable mentions:

Jeffrey Gahler, Harford County Sheriff

Chad Shrodes, County Council

Andre Johnson, County Council

Personal trainer

Winner: Cory Bielatowicz, Game Changer Fitness

Honorable mentions:

Tim Cain, The Arena Club

Markese Hayden, Y in Abingdon

Heather Rockhill, Snap Fitness Fallston

Police officer

Winner: Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, Harford County Sheriff

Honorable mentions:

Lt. Will Reiber, Aberdeen Police Department

Cpl. Daniel Petz, Havre de Grace Police Department

Trooper First Class Nicholas Urbano, Maryland State Police-Bel Air

Principal

Anna Shanahan, St. Margaret School

Elementary school, 205 N. Hickory Ave., Bel Air, 410-879-1113. Middle school 1716 E. Churchville Road, Bel Air, 410-877-9660. smsch.org

Anna Shanahan jokes a bit ruefully that she is a “COVID principal.”

Just six months after landing the top job at St. Margaret School in Bel Air, the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools statewide. The school’s staff and 640 pupils from pre-kindergarten through the 8th grade were thrust virtually overnight into remote learning.

“It was certainly a challenge,” Shanahan said.

“I haven’t had a non-COVID principal experience yet. But our teachers did an incredible job. The principals know how difficult their job is because we’ve done it ourselves. We made it to the end of the year, and that is a huge accomplishment.”

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Once in-person learning resumed in September, the new principal looked for creative ways to express her appreciation for her staff, from hosting breakfasts and lunches to jeans days at school.

“We have a large faculty and a large student population, but we really do run this school like a family,” she said.

Honorable mentions:

Karen L. Jankowiak, Prospect Mill Elementary

Melissa Williams, Edgewood Middle School

Tara Dedeaux, Bakerfield Elementary School


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