Driving to Hammond High School Monday morning, Jody Zepp found herself stuck on the side of the road with her Mazda in need of a tow to the mechanic.
Thankfully for Zepp, one of the perks of being named state teacher of the year is that she will receive a new car donated by the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association.
"It's great timing, it's got 111,000 miles on it," Zepp said of her Mazda Monday.
Zepp, a psychology and government teacher at Hammond High School, was named the state's Teacher of the Year Friday by the Maryland State Department of Education. She received the award at the department's annual award gala at Martin's West.
Reflecting on the evening, Zepp said she was "stunned and thrilled" when she was announced as Teacher of the Year.
In her remarks to the audience, Zepp thanked MSDE for the recognition, saying she was honored and deeply grateful for the award.
Zepp went on to say she is "blessed to be part of the service of Howard County Public Schools" under the leadership of Superintendent Renee Foose, before thanking Central Office and Hammond staff for their support and encouragement over the years.
Zepp, 54, was one of seven finalists for the award from across the state, and is now in the running for National Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in April.
As Teacher of the Year, Zepp will travel the state as a speaker and adviser over the next year.
Zepp told audience members that her vision for education is that the "best for the best of students is the best for all students" and that as a state, they need to work to bridge the achievement gap.
"We need to make sure that all students have the promise of access and opportunity," she said.
Zepp was joined by Foose and other school officials at the ceremony.
"Jody Zepp is an incredible representative of what makes our county and our schools among the best in the nation," Foose said in a statement.
The McDonald's Family Restaurants of Greater Maryland also awarded Zepp an iPad and a $10,000 donation to Hammond High School for a project of the school's choosing.
Zepp, who started at Hammond in 2009, had previously taught in the Montgomery County Public Schools system for seven years.
At Hammond, Zepp teaches between 130 and 140 students in grade 10 to 12, who range from those with special needs to those in Advanced Placement courses. She launched Hammond's Academy of Government, Law and Public Relation, one of just two in the county.
"Jody is not only an educator who has the highest standard for all of our students, but she is able to engage students at all ability levels and help them become the best students and best people they can be," said Hammond High School Principal Marcy Leonard.
Zepp was named Howard County Teacher of the Year in April and also received the Washington Post's Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award for Howard County.
Zepp comes from a family of teachers.
Her father, Ira Zepp Jr., was a professor at what is now McDaniel College and was influential in desegregation in Westminster and throughout Carroll Country. Zepp's mother, Mary, was an elementary school teacher. Both parents are deceased.
Her sister, Karen Zepp, is a music teacher at Bryant Woods Elementary School in Columbia; and her brother, Alan Zepp, is an English teacher at Westminster High School.
"It's like the education lottery," Zepp said of the response to winning the award. "I'm getting all these emails from folks who have been in my education life, It's just been wonderful."
The video of Zepp receiving the state Teacher of the Year award can be found online at youtube.com/watch?v=PlluzhgbRA0.