Kenneth Fischer didn't intend to become a teacher. He said he was nudged into it after dabbling in math and medicine when he was a college student.
However, the Winters Mill High School science teacher said that after stepping into a classroom, he knew that was where he was supposed to be.
"I don't even really see it as work," Fischer said.
Fischer, 28, of Sykesville, was recognized last week for his accomplishments in the classroom when he was named Carroll County's Teacher of the Year.
School officials selected Fischer from eight educators who were recognized last month by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce as this year's outstanding teachers.
The four high school, two middle school and two elementary school teachers were chosen from among nearly 200 student-nominated teachers countywide.
Fischer will be considered for Maryland Teacher of the Year, which state education officials are expected to announce in October. He has been teaching biology, chemistry and ecology in Carroll since graduating from McDaniel College in 2000.
Before joining the Winters Mill faculty when the school opened in Westminster, he taught for two years at North Carroll High School.
"I believe in the three R's - rigor, relevance and relationships," Fischer said.
He said he tries to challenge students with rigorous coursework; to make lessons relevant by connecting them to hot topics or community problems; and to nurture relationships so that each student feels safe enough to take an academic or athletic risk.
"I don't think anything is worth learning unless it stretches you to learn," he said. "I want students to have to work and wrestle with the details."
For students in an ecology class learning about land use, Fischer set up a mock public hearing.Taking on the roles of politicians, lawyers and others, the students debated whether the best use for a farm adjacent to the school was as a BGE power plant, a housing development, a shopping center or a park.
Sherri-Le Bream, Winters Mill principal, called Fischer an exceptional teacher and leader.
"What makes him special is that he is willing to work to be an example for others and then to help those around him be just as successful," Bream wrote in a letter of recommendation to the Teacher of the Year selection committee.
Fischer said the most enjoyable aspect of teaching is working with the students.
"I see little parts of myself in almost every student I teach," Fischer said. "It's really fun when you can find a kid that's having a rough time with something and you can help them get through it."
Students speak highly of Fischer, said Gordon Love, assistant principal at Winters Mill.
"He is very energetic, well-respected, and he's on the cutting edge with curriculum and instruction," Love said. "He exudes confidence and he will be a great spokesperson for the teaching profession."
Fischer also takes his teaching beyond the classroom, Love said.
He is a member of the school improvement team and the student assistance team, which works with parents to identify children with drug and alcohol problems.
After school, Fisher coaches the school's cross-country and outdoor track teams.
He said he enjoys seeing student-athletes succeed at something they've struggled with all season.
When Fischer isn't teaching, he might be found playing his guitar and singing with an acoustic duo called 3 Hour Drive.
"When you spend all day working with other people's issues, it's very rewarding but you don't spend a lot of time focusing on yourself. ... So, that's my thing," Fischer said. "It's about my feelings and my expression of myself. It's just me and my guitar."
On weekends, Fischer works as a paramedic for the Mount Airy Fire Company. Between calls, he grades papers and prepares for the next school week.
He said being a paramedic enables him to illustrate real-life experiences for his students.
"When we talk about anatomy, I've seen anatomy," Fischer said.
He said he is always stunned at the impact he has on students.
"As a paramedic you get to really impact a situation," Fischer said. "But as a teacher, I get to do that hundreds of times with hundreds of kids every day."