Ten educators were selected as finalists for the Harford County Public School Teacher of the Year award. This year, in addition to holding the title, the winner will receive $10,000 cash, a Dell laptop and a new Toyota Camry to use for one year. The winner also will advance to the statewide competition.
The Teacher of the Year will be announced at a banquet scheduled for April 27 at the Bayou Restaurant in Havre de Grace.
This year's finalists are:
Kerrie L. Bauer: As a student, Bauer loved high school. She earned a bachelor's degree from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania and decided to teach high school math. She discovered quickly that it was a different place for educators than it was for students.
To overcome the differences, she taught her students not only math skills but also life skills.
"I try to teach students how to work through any problem regardless of whether or not it's math," said Bauer, who has taught for eight years at Joppatowne High School in Joppa. Bauer earned a master's degree from McDaniel College in Westminster.
Roxanne Leyko Dodson: After 18 years of teaching art, Dodson's love of teaching continues to grow.
"I love getting my students to discover that they can do things they never realized they could do," said Dodson, a teacher at Aberdeen Middle School.
She connects with her pupils by setting an example and showing them she cares.
"As a teacher I am constantly on display, so I have to show integrity and honesty to my students. I love my kids, and I love my profession," Dodson said. Dodson earned a bachelor's degree from Towson University and a master's degree from Goucher College in Baltimore.
Mary Ann Hartshorn: After 23 years of teaching English, Hartshorn said, there's nothing comparable to students who are excited about learning.
"Every time I see a face light up with excitement, I know that I am making a difference in the life of a student," said Hartshorn, who teaches at Bel Air High School. "It's that moment that I realize that nothing I do for the kids is wasted."
Hartshorn received a bachelor's degree from Towson University and a master's degree from Salisbury University. She's completing her doctorate at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Susan J. Healy: Although Healy has taught fourth grade for 12 years at North Bend Elementary School in Jarrettsville, she has never duplicated the way she teaches a lesson.
Healy does whatever she can to get through to her pupils, including dressing up like historical characters.
"Being creative in my teaching gets me excited about teaching, and I think it helps the kids get excited about learning," said Healy. "It takes more to get through to children these days. My competition isn't other teachers - it's Xbox and PlayStation."
Healy earned a bachelor's degree from Salisbury University.
Nancy J. Murray: In high school, Murray dreamed of being a social worker so she could work with people. But a stint as a camp counselor during college was all it took to convince her to work with children.
As a teacher, her main goal is helping children discover their gifts and recognize their self-worth.
"I want my kids to know that regardless of their talents, that they matter, that they are loved, and that they have a classroom family that will always be there for them," said Murray, who teaches third grade at Youth's Benefit Elementary School.
"After they leave here, they won't remember the facts and figures I taught them, but I hope they will remember all the things we did together," she said.
Margaret E. Phillips: When Phillips, the North Harford Middle School musical theater teacher, heard she had been selected as a finalist for the Harford County Teacher of the Year, she was elated.
Friends and family rallied around her in celebration. But after 14 years teaching, she said, the best accolades are the kind that she can only get from her pupils.
"There's nothing like that 'I got it' moment," Phillips said. "At every production, I see the kids on stage and tears just roll down my face. That's the defining moment in my teaching career, and I get to experience it over and over again."
Phillips earned her bachelor's degree from Towson University.
Robert T. Powers: When Powers, a band and orchestra teacher at Emmorton Elementary for the last 11 years, noticed that pupils who wanted to play in the band weren't signing up because they couldn't afford an instrument, he wanted to do something about it.
His answer was Band Together, a program he started in which people donate used instruments that he helps restore and then gives to pupils to use.
To date he has received more than 100 new and used instruments and has about 300 more on the way.
"I went into teaching music to instill a love and an appreciation of music in elementary students," said Powers, in his 27th year of teaching. "I don't want any child that wants to learn to miss out on that."
Powers earned his bachelor's degree at Towson University.
Holly A. Rankin: Rankin knew when she grew up she wanted to do something that involved children. Teaching seemed inevitable because she comes from a long line of educators, including her parents and siblings.
Thirteen years after becoming a teacher, she's been selected as a finalist for Teacher of the Year and said it's something she'll never forget. But nothing compares to making a difference in a child's life.
"In what other profession do you get to start over every year and make changes and get to see the results in the eyes of the children?" said Rankin who teaches second grade at Abingdon Elementary School.
Rankin earned a bachelor's degree from California University of Pennsylvania, and a master's degree from Towson University.
Brian W. Rheinhardt: For the past eight years, Rheinhardt, who teaches English at C. Milton Wright High School in Bel Air, said his goal was to get his students to know more than literature by the end of the year.
"My job as an educator is to teach my students the skills they need to pursue a college education, if they decide to go down that path," he said.
He said that he finds teaching exciting and does what he can to make it exciting for his students. "I love teaching and interacting with the students, and I plan on doing it for another 30 years or so," he said.
Rheinhardt earned a bachelor's degree from Towson University.
Amy M. Woolf: Woolf wanted to be a biochemist, but after 12 years of teaching biology at Edgewood High School, she has no regrets.
"Being an educator gives me a chance to teach kids to appreciate the world around them, and know more than what they came into my classroom with," Woolf said.
Woolf helps write the biology section of the state assessment tests. She earned a bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at Geneseo.