Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship, an English teacher at Rising Sun High School in Cecil County, tonight was named the 2012-13 Maryland Teacher of the Year.
State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery made the announcement during a dramatic gala in a ballroom filled with educators and dignitaries. Among those in attendance were Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. John Sarbanes, Comptroller Peter Franchot, and Attorney General Douglas Gansler.
"Great education begins with outstanding teaching, and Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship is an exemplary educator," said Maryland State Board of Education President Charlene Dukes. "Her work, and that of all of our local Teachers of the Year, is heartwarming and inspiring. With teachers like these, Maryland students are in great hands."
Dr. Lowery said Maryland schools receive national accolades in large part because of the strength of its teaching force. "Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship exemplifies what it means to be a Maryland educator," she added. "She's a tireless instructor, fully committed to her students and their academic progress. Her work reflects well on all of us."
Ms. Holmes-Blankenship teaches 10th and 11th grade students, helping them develop critical thinking and inquiry skills through the exploration of literature and the processes of writing, speaking, and listening. She writes county curriculum, is a member of the School Improvement Team, participates in professional learning communities, facilitates school and county professional development, and mentors student teachers.
The path to becoming Maryland Teacher of the Year was not always smooth. Ms. Holmes-Blankenship said she didn't always believe that education was important for her. She is from a large, working class family for whom economic and academic successes were elusive. Ms. Holmes-Blankenship credits several of her teachers with her transformation from a girl contemplating dropping out of school, to a girl desiring to go to college. She worked and borrowed her way through, becoming the first member of her family to graduate from college.
Ms. Holmes-Blankenship graduated Summa Cum Laude from Towson University in 1995, with a Bachelor of Science degree in English. She also holds a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction from McDaniel College in 2005. She is a National Board Certified Teacher.
Naming this year's Teacher of the Year was a very difficult decision for the panel of judges. All seven finalists were outstanding. The other finalists were Patricia DiLeonardi, Carroll County; Kerrie Seberg, Charles County; Lisa Young, Howard County; Bernadette Scheetz, St. Mary's County; Katie C. White, Talbot County; and Christina Hammer-Atkins, Washington County.
As the 2012-2013 Maryland Teacher of the Year, Ms. Holmes-Blankenship will receive cash awards, technology equipment, national travel opportunities, and a new car valued at more than $25,000, donated by the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association. Her school also will receive a $10,000 award from McDonald's Family Restaurants of Maryland.
Presenting sponsors of the Maryland Teacher of the Year Program are Comcast, the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, McDonald's Family Restaurants of Maryland, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems. Platinum sponsors are Bank of America, BGE, Lockheed Martin, and Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.
Ms. Holmes-Blankenship will go on to compete for the esteemed National Teacher of the Year Award, to be announced next April. The winner will also spend the coming year as a speaker and advisor in Maryland. The Maryland Teacher of the Year will be honored by the President at the White House next spring, participate in several national meetings and conferences, as well as in National Space Camp with fellow State Teachers of the Year.
Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship - 5 x 7, 300dpi photo
Maryland Teacher of the Year is a program of the Maryland State Department of Education with major underwriting provided by corporations and other organizations. The program is an affiliate of the National Teacher of the Year Program. All Maryland local school systems participate and all 24 semi-finalists are engaged throughout their selection year, in learning and recognition programs and also as Advisors to the State Superintendent. Selection of the Maryland Teacher of the Year is made by a Blue Ribbon Panel of Judges that represent teachers, administrators, parents, and higher education. The Maryland Teacher of the Year goes on to represent teachers throughout Maryland and also competes for the title of National Teacher of the Year. Each year, the Maryland Teacher of the Year is named at a Teacher of the Year Gala. The year 2012 marks the 22nd anniversary of Maryland's Teacher of the Year Gala.