Teacher of Year led drive for smoke-free school Harford educator wins state honor


Gemma S. Hoskins, who led her fifth-grade class in a successful campaign to have Jarrettsville Elementary declared a smoke-free school, was named last night as Maryland's Teacher of the Year.

Mrs. Hoskins, an 18-year veteran of the Harford County public school system, received the $1,000 prize in an Academy Awards-style program at the Martin's West catering hall that was videotaped and broadcast two hours later by Maryland Public Television.

The TV production was particularly fitting, since Mrs. Hoskins makes use of television as an instructional tool. Recently, her students produced a school news program that has been the framework for them to develop skills in a variety of subjects.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who joined his new state school superintendent, Nancy S. Grasmick, in announcing the winner, called teachers "our most important resource."

"We are calling for world-class schools, and we will only have those schools with world-class teachers -- and that's what we have in Mrs. Hoskins and the other outstanding teachers we honor tonight," he said in a prepared statement.

A panel representing teachers, superintendents, school administrators, legislators, parents, students and the business community was asked to choose five finalists from among 22 nominees submitted by school districts across Maryland. The panel came up with seven because of tie votes.

The judges considered the teachers' motivation, professional development, educational philosophy and the testimony of colleagues -- looking for a quality expressed by Deputy State Superintendent Bonnie S. Copeland in her praise of the final ists for "making a difference in the lives of their students."

Mrs. Hoskins was chosen in part because of her philosophy to help her students "become well-rounded, inquisitive students of life," state school officials said.

She said a teacher's biggest challenge is "to prepare children for world that is not always what we'd like it to be. I'd like my children to be seekers of knowledge."

Her fifth-graders' anti-smoking campaign began as a class project in persuasive writing.

Mrs. Hoskins, who won a silver bowl, a set of encyclopedias and a voyage on the Pride of Baltimore II with the honor, will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition next spring.

In accepting the award, Mrs. Hoskins said she had been warned to have a speech prepared in the event she won, "so I brought my lesson plan."

In addition to praising the other teachers, Mrs. Hoskins had a message for all of the students she has taught over the years: "You have each touched me in a very special way. . . . Whatever I gave to you, you gave me so much more."

The other six finalists were:

* Gary L. Hendrickson, who teaches math and physics at Allegany High School in Allegany County.

* Martha M. Noel, a physical education teacher at Essex Elementary School in Baltimore County.

* Roger L. Volrath, a physics teacher at Glenelg High School in Howard County.

* Barbara A. Landefeld, who teaches the second-grade and third-grade at Heather Hills Elementary in Prince George's County.

* Debra M. McQuaid, a physical education teacher at St. Michael's Elementary/Middle School in Talbot County.

* Doretta M. Murray, an elementary teacher at the Wicomico County Special Learning Center.

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