2024-2025 Maryland Teachers of the Year Bios

Teacher of the Year 2024-2025 Group Photo





David Buskirk, Beall Elementary School, Kindergarten

Allegany County – David Buskirk, Beall Elementary School, Kindergarten

David Buskirk is a kindergarten teacher at Beall Elementary School with 15 years of teaching experience. He is a graduate of Frostburg State University, where he received a master’s degree in Administration and Supervision and a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. Mr. Buskirk co-chairs the school’s ELA team, serves on the school improvement and attendance teams, and mentors student interns. He is currently seeking National Board Certification. Mr. Buskirk has also served as a coach and volunteer for Allegany County Special Olympics.


Elizabeth Heist, Lake Shore Elementary School, Music, Grades K-5

Anne Arundel County – Elizabeth Heist, Lake Shore Elementary School, Music, Grades K‑5

Elizabeth Heist teaches general music and chorus at Lake Shore Elementary School. In addition to teaching, she serves on the school leadership team and co-leads the Positive Behavior Intervention Support program. In addition, she contributes to curriculum writing for the county and presents professional development sessions to support fellow music teachers. Ms. Heist earned a master's degree in Music Education from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Grove City College.


Kat Locke-Jones, Hampstead Hill Academy, English Language Arts, Grade 7

Baltimore City – Kat Locke-Jones, Hampstead Hill Academy, English Language Arts, Grade 7

Kat Locke-Jones teaches seventh-grade English language arts at Hampstead Hill Academy. As a Baltimore City Schools model teacher and 2023 TOY Finalist, she is passionate about teaching students to write and tell their own stories. She is co-founder of SL24 and Sean’s House, a mental health foundation focused on educating, assisting, and supporting students. Ms. Locke-Jones earned an English Education degree from the University of Delaware and a master’s degree in Education from Johns Hopkins University.


Stephanie Gerhold, Woodlawn Middle School, ESOL & Spanish, Grades 6-8

Baltimore County – Stephanie Gerhold, Woodlawn Middle School, ESOL & Spanish, Grades 6‑8

Stephanie Gerhold teaches ESOL and Spanish at Woodlawn Middle School. A Fulbright Scholar and National Board-Certified Teacher, she has taught Spanish for 20 years, kindergarten to college. She also writes curriculum, coaches teachers, designs professional development, and serves as Department Chair for World Languages, ESOL, Science, and Library Media Services. Ms. Gerhold holds a master’s degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from Salisbury University and bachelor’s degrees in Hispanic Studies and English from Washington College.


Meagan Jeffries, Sunderland Elementary School, Grade 3

Calvert County – Meagan Jeffries, Sunderland Elementary School, Grade 3

Meagan Jeffries is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of experience in elementary education. Ms. Jeffries started her career teaching gifted and talented students. In 2020, she was honored with the MSDE Outstanding Educator in Gifted and Talented Education award. In her current role teaching third-graders, she serves as a Gifted and Talented Education liaison, organizing enrichment opportunities for both students and staff. Ms. Jeffries is an advocate for providing all students with hands-on, inquiry-based instruction across grade levels. She received bachelor's and master’s degrees in Elementary Education from West Virginia University.


Danielle Dennis, Colonel Richardson High School, Mathematics, Grades 9-12

Caroline County – Danielle Dennis, Colonel Richardson High School, Mathematics, Grades 9‑12

Danielle Dennis, a product of Caroline County Public Schools, returned to the school system in 2015 after graduating from Salisbury University. Four years later, Ms. Dennis left teaching to become a corporate recruiter, but soon followed her heart back to the classroom where she was welcomed as a high school Mathematics teacher. She coaches track and field and serves as the Class of 2025 advisor. She also serves on the Wellness Committee and School System Improvement Council. A Google Certified Educator, Ms. Dennis is working towards National Board Certification.


Brian Thompson, Westminster Elementary School, Music, Grades 3-5

Carroll County – Brian Thompson, Westminster Elementary School, Music, Grades 3‑5

Brian Thompson teaches third grade vocal music and fourth and fifth-grade instrumental music. Mr. Thompson serves as audition coordinator for the middle and high school all-county ensembles and coordinates the district Solo and Ensemble Festival. He is a member of the adjunct Music Department faculty at Stevenson University as an instructor for the marching and concert bands. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Towson University, a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and a School Administration I certificate from McDaniel College.


Brittany Rigdon, Cecil County School of Technology, Landscaping and Horticulture Production, Grades 11-12

Cecil County – Brittany Rigdon, Cecil County School of Technology, Landscaping and Horticulture Production, Grades 11‑12

Brittany Rigdon teaches Landscaping and Horticulture Production at Cecil County School of Technology. She serves as the school’s FFA co-advisor and as Region 5 Coordinator on the Maryland FFA Board of Directors. Ms. Rigdon also runs the school’s Floral and Greenhouse businesses, which allow students to learn trade skills and work directly with community members. She has also taught in Wilmington, Delaware, worked as an admission counselor at Dakota Wesleyan University, and as a pre-college advisor at Iowa State University and the University of Delaware through the Federal TRiO programs. She received her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education-Agriculture from Delaware Valley University.


Joshua Clark, Henry E. Lackey High School, Spanish – World Languages, Grades 9-12

Charles County – Joshua Clark, Henry E. Lackey High School, Spanish – World Languages, Grades 9‑12

Joshua Clark teaches World Languages at Henry E. Lackey High School. During his six years at the school, he has conducted an action research study, presented numerous classroom collaboration strategies, and coached a two-time winning Polyglot language team. A member of the American Council of Teaching Foreign Languages and Maryland Foreign Language Association, Mr. Clark earned the Global Seal of Biliteracy. He holds a bachelor's degree from Frostburg State University and a master's degree from Southern Oregon University.


Katelyn Robinson, Maple Elementary School, Pre-Kindergarten

Dorchester County – Katelyn Robinson, Maple Elementary School, Pre-Kindergarten

Katelyn Robinson has taught pre-kindergarten for eight years. She has mentored and tutored students, coached cheerleading and led the Student of the Month program. In her first year, she was her school’s First Class Teacher of the Year. Ms. Robinson is the pre-kindergarten team leader, pre-K representative on the Early Childhood Advisory Council, leads the Maple Elementary School’s Accreditation Team, and is First Aid and CPR certified. She received her bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education from Salisbury University in 2016, and she is pursuing a master’s degree in Differentiated Instruction from LaSalle University.


Ivette Vichot-Taboas, Urbana Elementary School, Multilingual Education Program, Grades K-5

Frederick County – Ivette Vichot-Taboas, Urbana Elementary School, Multilingual Education Program, Grades K‑5

Ivette Vichot-Taboas teaches multilingual learners in Frederick County Public Schools. A National Board Certified Teacher in English as a New Language, she serves as a mentor, FCPS Master Teacher, School Improvement Process Team member, and Equity Representative. She serves on several committees in Frederick County including the Frederick County Teacher Association Budget Committee and the Human and Civil Rights Committee/Diversity Ambassador Program. Ms. Taboas holds an associate’s degree from Miami Dade College, a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Nova Southeastern University, and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from American Public University.


Kaitlyn Bolyard, Yough Glades Elementary School, Grades Pre-K - 5

Garrett County – Kaitlyn Bolyard, Yough Glades Elementary School, Grades Pre‑K ‑ 5

Kaitlyn Bolyard coordinates special education services and leads the implementation of Specially Designed Instruction, fostering inclusion and advocating for students with disabilities at Yough Glades Elementary. Ms. Bolyard facilitates professional development at the school and district level, focusing on inclusion strategies and implementing Specially Designed Instruction. She is the head coach of the Yough Glades Unified Bocce team and a Lead Special Education Teacher for Garrett County. Ms. Bolyard holds a master’s degree in Special Education from the California University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Frostburg State University.


Erica Richardson, Joppatowne High School, Social Sciences, Grades 11-12

Harford County – Erica Richardson, Joppatowne High School, Social Sciences, Grades 11‑12

Erica Richardson is a Social Sciences teacher at Joppatowne High School where she also serves as department chair, senior class advisor and coordinator of the Homeland Security Program. Ms. Richardson is a member of the School Performance and Achievement Team, Safety and Security Committee, and a board member of the Middle States Council for Social Studies. She coaches three athletic seasons and created the Sunshine Committee to celebrate and support teachers. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Secondary Education from St. Thomas Aquinas College.


Jessica Nichols, River Hill High School, Social Studies, Grades 10-12

Howard County – Jessica Nichols, River Hill High School, Social Studies, Grades 10‑12

Jessica Nichols teaches social studies at River Hill High School. A National Board Certified Teacher, she acts as Teacher Development Liaison and serves on the school leadership team. Ms. Nichols also sponsors clubs, coaches speeches and debates, and organizes professional development workshops. She was also elected to the Howard County Democratic Central Committee. Ms. Nichols holds a master’s degree in Human Resource Development from Towson University and a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from the University of Maryland.


Kaitlyn Wright, Kent County Middle School, English Language Arts, Grade 7

Kent County – Kaitlyn Wright, Kent County Middle School, English Language Arts, Grade 7

Kaitlyn Wright teaches seventh-grade English language arts at Kent County Middle School where she has also revived the theater program, served on various leadership teams, and helped develop the curriculum. Ms. Wright promotes growth through storytelling in her community as director of the Garfield Center for the Arts, Playmakers Summer Camp. Previously, she taught in Wicomico County for nine years. She earned a master's degree in Administration from Salisbury University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Arcadia University.


Melissa Porter Parks, Gaithersburg High School, English Learners & Multilingual Education, Grades 9-12

Montgomery County – Melissa Porter Parks, Gaithersburg High School, English Learners & Multilingual Education, Grades 9‑12

Melissa Porter Parks is the resource teacher for the Gaithersburg High School English Learners and Multilingual Education program, serving approximately 750 students, including those who have experienced interrupted education. Ms. Porter Parks organizes therapeutic and educational opportunities and works with students to ensure they are working toward graduation. A past recipient of the MCPS Outstanding ESOL Teacher of the Year Award, she holds a master’s degree in Elementary Education from Chatham University and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Women’s Studies from Allegheny College.


Kathy Russell, Rose Valley Elementary School, Grades K-5

Prince George’s County – Kathy Russell, Rose Valley Elementary School, Grades K‑5

Kathy Russell, a 26-year veteran educator, teaches Reading/Language Arts at Rose Valley Elementary. A National Board Certified Teacher, she serves as a candidate support provider, Mentor Teacher, Reading Department Chairperson, and Professional Development Lead Teacher. She has also served on the district’s reading curriculum selection committee, coordinated the ESOL Program and created a school-based reading club. She holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral/Social Sciences from the University of Maryland.


Megan Borga, Kennard Elementary School, Grade 5

Queen Anne’s County – Megan Borga, Kennard Elementary School, Grade 5

Megan Borga teaches fifth grade at Kennard Elementary School where she works to foster student leadership as co-advisor of the student council while coordinating community engagement and service-learning initiatives. She serves on the PBIS, SIT, and professional development teams; helps to shape county-level curriculum; and facilitates the QACPS novice educator course. Ms. Borga is pursuing a doctorate in Educational Leadership at Bowie State University. She holds a master's degree from Gratz College and bachelor's degree from Washington College.


Lauren Runkles, Great Mills High School Mathematics & ESOL, Grades 9-12

St. Mary’s County – Lauren Runkles, Great Mills High School, Mathematics & ESOL, Grades 9‑12

Lauren Runkles pioneers a program within her school that mirrors dual-language instruction. By strategically scheduling Multilingual Learners, she supports co-teaching models that embrace and celebrate linguistic diversity. Ms. Runkles has helped develop and refine MCAP assessments, served on the Bias and Sensitivity Panel for WIDA ACCESS for ELLs assessment and recently served as a co-presenter at the 2023 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a master’s degree in Teaching from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.


Zachary Bartemy, Somerset County Technical High School, Engineering, Grades 9-12

Somerset County – Zachary Bartemy, Somerset County Technical High School, Engineering, Grades 9‑12

Zachary Bartemy teaches engineering at Somerset County Technical High School. Using technology, he has led students into the community to design and test fishing lures, launch and analyze designed rockets, compete in robotics and drone events, and earn certification in Computer-Aided Design (CAD). A National Board Certified Teacher, Mr. Bartemy established the engineering and robotics program, working on projects with the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Purdue University and NASA. Five of his students have completed job shadows at NASA in the past two years. He holds a master’s degree in Career and Technology Education from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and a bachelor’s degree in Engineering from James Madison University.


Jeremy Hillyard, Easton High School, Spanish & ESOL Mathematics, Grades 9-12

Talbot County – Jeremy Hillyard, Easton High School, Spanish & ESOL Mathematics, Grades 9‑12

Jeremy Hillyard teaches Spanish and ESOL mathematics at Easton High School where his students’ work in supporting Central American communities has been nationally recognized by The Pulsera Project. He is a mentor and advocate for Spanish-speaking students. In the community, he is a board member of the local education foundation and serves as a Friends of the Library council member for the Talbot County Free Library. He holds a master’s degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Alabama and bachelor's degrees in Spanish and Psychology from Susquehanna University.


Brittany Collins, Springfield Middle School, Multilingual Learner Teacher, Grades 6-8

Washington County – Brittany Collins, Springfield Middle School, Multilingual Learner Teacher, Grades 6‑8

Brittany Collins is a multilingual learner teacher at Springfield Middle School and recipient of the 2024 Maryland TESOL K-12 ESOL Teacher of the Year Award. She leads the WCPS Multilingual Learner Curriculum for secondary students, serves as a valued member of the School Improvement Team, delivers professional learning and mentors new multilingual teachers. She has spent eight of her 13 years teaching in Washington County Public Schools. Ms. Collins holds a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood/Elementary Education from Frostburg State University and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Hood College.


Debbie Reynolds, Wicomico Middle School World History, Grade 7

Wicomico County – Debbie Reynolds, Wicomico Middle School, World History, Grade 7

Debbie Reynolds teaches seventh grade World History at Wicomico Middle School where she leads the WISE after-school program and countywide social studies professional development. A member of the Kappa Delta Pi educational honors society, she was the inaugural WCPS Rising Star Award recipient for outstanding second-year teachers. Ms. Reynolds was also featured in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s nationwide podcast series, Teachers in America. She holds a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s degree in Teaching from Salisbury University.


Gabrielle Remington, Stephen Decatur Middle School, Reading Intervention, Technology Education, Grades 7-8

Worcester County – Gabrielle Remington, Stephen Decatur Middle School, Reading Intervention, Grades 7‑8

Gabrielle Remington is a reading specialist at Stephen Decatur Middle School where she serves on the School Improvement Team and as a teacher-researcher. A doctoral degree candidate in Literacy from Salisbury University, she also holds a master’s degree in Reading Specialist and a bachelor’s degree in English Education. She is a National Board Certified Teacher with certifications as a teacher in Special Education, English as a Second Language (ESOL) and Secondary Education English. Ms. Remington also serves as vice president of the Ladies Philoptochos Organization, which promotes philanthropic outreach in the local community and secures funds for community education initiatives.