There were hoots and high fives as the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce honored eight public school teachers for helping students build confidence and relate their studies to the real world.
About 500 teachers, school administrators, friends and relatives packed Wilhelm Caterers' banquet hall near Westminster on Monday night for the 12th Outstanding Teacher Awards dinner. Chosen from 145 teachers nominated by peers, students or students' parents, the eight winners received $300 checks and plaques.
The awards went to Melissa R. Bowman, a third-grade teacher at Carrolltowne Elementary; Mary G. Hall, who teaches second, third and fourth grade at Sandymount Elementary; James B. Horn, a social studies teacher at South Carroll High; Claudia C. Lewis, a Westminster High science teacher; Linda K. Nordling, an art teacher at Linton Springs Elementary; Charles R. Pearce, a fifth-grade teacher at Manchester Elementary; April M. Sexton, a Northwest Middle science teacher; and Troy A. Warehime, a physical education teacher at North Carroll High.
Before the eight winners were announced, all 145 nominees lined up alphabetically around the banquet hall and paraded across the front to receive certificates and handshakes -- much like graduates picking up diplomas.
"They'll each get their 5 1/2 seconds of fame because they deserve it," said Scott Manhoff, master of ceremonies.
The dinner has grown from what organizers jokingly call "an intimate affair" -- 20 nominees and relatives gathered at a local hotel the first year -- to a social occasion that attracts so many diners that a charter bus company shuttles guests from off-site parking lots to the catering hall.
Between the filet mignon dinner and the awards presentation, guests heard from Dr. Benjamin Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.
Carson told the audience about his rise from the bottom of his class in Detroit's public schools to a top achiever in high school. The difference, he said, was the encouragement of his mother and teachers,
"If you can get a young person to believe in himself, and if you can get a young person to believe he is smart, then the rest of it becomes automatic," Carson said. "Success is taking the talent God has given you and using that talent to elevate people, and that's what teaching does."