Leah Waller was named Baltimore's Teacher of the Year yesterday, and she quickly turned the experience into an arithmetic lesson for the first-graders in her class at Maree Garnett Farring Elementary School.
Moments after receiving a bouquet of roses from city school officials, Waller asked her students whether it weighed at least a pound. Their response was a unanimous "yes."
Waller, 31, learned about the award when city schools interim CEO Charlene Cooper Boston made a surprise visit to her classroom.
Students in the classroom cheered as Boston handed the flowers to Waller.
"Mrs. Waller is what every teacher strives to be. She's excellent in content, her work with children and truly is an exemplary teacher," said Linda Brewster, the school's principal.
A native of Ukraine, Waller teaches about 17 students who have English as a second language. She has also tutored dyslexic students at the Jemicy School.
She holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in early childhood education from Towson University.
Waller said she spoke limited English when she came to the United States in 1994 but learned the language quickly. She said she holds her students to the same standards as native English speakers.
Representatives from the Baltimore Teachers Union and the city school system sat on the committee that selected Waller, who will compete for Maryland Teacher of the Year.