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What does Howard County Public Schools Principal of the Year do in her free time? Help school’s families, play kazoo and bake cookies

Denise Lancaster, starting her sixth year as principal of Deep Run Elementary School, was named Howard County Principal of the Year.
Denise Lancaster, starting her sixth year as principal of Deep Run Elementary School, was named Howard County Principal of the Year. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

The principal of Deep Run Elementary School goes the extra mile for her students. Literally. Last spring, during the pandemic, Denise Lancaster spent a weekend delivering fresh fruit and vegetables to some of her youngsters’ families living in Elkridge.

Lancaster’s devotion to her kids, both in and out of school, earned her the 2021 Howard County Public Schools Principal of the Year award. A certified speech language pathologist, Lancaster, 60, has led Deep Run for six of her 26 years in the school system. A mother of three, she lives in Dayton.

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Here are three things you might like to know about Lancaster:

She is a musician, sort of.

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“I’m a member of the Fairfax [Va.] High School Alumni Kazoo Band. For six years, we’ve marched in the city’s Fourth of July parade, playing patriotic music like ‘Anchors Aweigh,’ ‘Yankee Doodle’ and ‘You’re A Grand Old Flag,’ wearing red tops and blue or white shorts. We practice once a year, the night before the parade. One time, we marched behind the band for the Washington Football Team and got a little drowned out.”

Where didn’t she attend grade school?

“Between kindergarten and fifth grade, I attended five different elementary schools. My father was in the Navy, so we moved around a lot. That experience has helped me better understand the children at Deep Run, where 51 percent are Hispanic and many come and go because of their circumstances. Each year, we hold a special orientation for them and we definitely make sure they feel welcomed.”

Her cookies are approved by all.

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“About four times a year, I make chocolate cookies for our staff [of 150]. I put one bagged cookie in everyone’s mailbox. They are really good cookies. The secret is vanilla pudding mix.

“I made them for the first day of school. Around Halloween, I may make pumpkin snickerdoodles. My husband gets at least one cookie out of the oven, but he sometimes has to wait until I count the lot.”

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