Broadneck science teacher Pat Neidhardt, known for taking students on marsh-mucking trips, yesterday became one of six Maryland educators to win a $25,000 Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.
State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick announced the award during a meeting in Baltimore, surprising the teacher -- who said she found the award and the money "mind boggling."
Mrs. Neidhardt said she will put some of the money -- not toward a trip to Disney World -- but toward more geology courses. In fact, she was headed for a classroom in Towson after her surprise at the state Department of Education offices yesterday.
The 1989 Maryland Teacher of the Year has been teaching for 26 years. She came to Anne Arundel County public schools in 1980, and to Broadneck Senior High two years later.
There she teaches marine biology and environmental science and sponsors the active Outdoor Club.
Her outdoor programs are credited with demonstrating to students their own capabilities and practical applications of what they are learning in the classroom.
"I have tremendous faith in what students can do. By the activities I provide them, students develop self-esteem," Mrs. Neidhardt said. "I think what they learn is they have the potential to change the world around them. And they do it. They've never let me down."
She has repeatedly taken students on trips to the Chesapeake Bay's swamps and marshes.
Two summers ago, Broadneck students earned 1/2 credit for their work at Wye Island, planting marsh grasses, among other environmental work. Just as important, said Mrs. Neidhardt, the students helped themselves get there: with her supervision, they wrote a proposal that netted them a $10,000 Toyota Corp. grant.
This past summer, students won a $1,000 Chesapeake Bay Trust grant to build bat houses and other wildlife resting places at the Horsehead Wildlife Refuge in Grasonville, she said.
This year, students will pick another environmental project.
Mrs. Neidhardt's husband, Karl, takes his hammer and goes on all programs, often teaching students how to use tools to build bird and bat houses.
This is the first year Maryland has participated in the California-based Milken foundation awards, which are given in 25 states. The program is designed to recognize outstanding teachers.
Award recipients will be honored at a state banquet next month and will receive their cash awards next April in California.