For more than an hour yesterday, they sat in a stuffy auditorium listening to the school band play yet another number, checking out the gaggle of TV cameras and wondering what all the fuss was about.
Finally, the state school superintendent arrived, the music stopped and Pamela Williams Morgan, who heads the English department at Winston Middle, stopped mid-yawn when she heard her name, then found out she had just become $25,000 richer.
News of her Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award -- and the accompanying cash award, to do with as she pleases -- stunned Mrs. Morgan, along with the 120 Winston students and teachers who had gathered for what they were told would be an "environmental education" meeting.
The 43-year-old Mrs. Morgan had no idea she had even been considered for the national award, sponsored by the California-based Milken Family Foundation, which is to dole out $3.75 million worth of $25,000 prizes to local educators in 25 states this school year. The foundation was created by junk bond king Michael Milken.
The awards are designed to recognize and reward exemplary educators, heighten public recognition and appreciation of the teaching profession and encourage more men and women to enter the field.
Mrs. Morgan, who was selected by a panel appointed by the state Department of Education, has played a major role in the Maryland Writing Project, a statewide effort to encourage writing across the curriculum. She says she has no idea how she'll spend the money.
This marks the first year Maryland has participated in the 13-year-old awards program. Nancy S. Grasmick, the state schools superintendent, visited the foundation's Los Angeles headquarters to make the pitch for Maryland this summer.
Dr. Grasmick also visited another Maryland winner yesterday, Gertrude O. Niewiaroski, a history teacher at Richard Montgomery High in Montgomery County. Four other Maryland educators are to be selected for the award by Oct. 12.
Mrs. Morgan, a Baltimore native, began her teaching career in 1971 at Harlem Park Junior High, then took a teaching job at Walbrook High before moving to Winston as head of the English department in 1987.
She lives in the Glendale section of Baltimore County with her husband, Aaron, and two children, Justin, 12, and Laurien, 8.