Wright is Kent’s teacher of the year; Phillips and Johnson also honored

WORTON — Kent County Public Schools held its annual awards ceremony Wednesday, April 10, “honoring not only the seasoned professionals who have been selected as the best of the best, but also to highlight the promising educators who have demonstrated great potential in their early years of service,” Superintendent Karen Couch said in her welcome.

Each year the school system names a Teacher of the Year, Support Employee of the Year and Promising Educator.

As has become tradition, the April 10 ceremony was held in the Kent Count High School auditorium.

“Tonight is always one of my favorite evenings because it’s time to celebrate and recognize the exceptional talents within our school community,” Couch said.

Last month, each school named a top teacher and support employee.

Also, several teachers who are early in their careers were nominated for the Promising Educator Award.

This year’s Teacher of the Year nominees were, by building: Brooke Joyner, Galena Elementary School; Cathy Smith, H.H. Garnet Elementary School; Emmie Nickerson, Rock Hall Elementary School; Kaitlyn Wright, Kent County Middle School; and Julie Anderson, Kent County High School.

Wright was selected as the 2024 Kent County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. She will go on to compete with fellow educators throughout the state for Maryland’s Teacher of the Year.

When called to the stage, Wright thanked the staff at Kent County Middle School including Principal Mark Buckel and Assistant Principal Kelley Melvin for their support.

“This is all about our students, and I can’t be standing here today and I can’t be representing my wonderful middle school without them each and every day,” Wright said. “To every single person who is nominated here today, thank you for everything that you do for them each day.”

The Support Employee of the Year nominees for each building were: Kreigh Kirby, Central Office; LaToya Johnson, Kent County High School; Tyray Johnson, Kent County Middle School; Lisa Darley, Galena Elementary School; Ann Kerr, H.H. Garnet Elementary School; and Jessica Jacobs, Rock Hall Elementary School.

With family including her children, friends and colleagues present in the high school’s auditorium, LaToya Johnson was announced as the 2024 Kent County Public Schools Support Employee of the Year.

The Promising Educator Award is given annually to an outstanding staff member in their first three years as a teacher in Kent County Public Schools. This year’s nominees were: Jasmine Johnson, Galena Elementary School; Michelle Phillips, Kent County High School; and Kalyn Stout, Kent County High School.

The 2024 award recipient is Phillips, a longtime staff member and coach at alma mater Kent County High School who came on board as an English teacher in 2022.

When Phillips’ name was announced as the award winner, the crowd in the high school auditorium erupted with loud cheers and applause. Among the well-wishers were some of her student athletes.

Phillips began her long career with Kent County Public Schools in 1990 as an instructional assistant. Throughout that time she earned a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees. She is currently pursuing a doctorate.

“It took 34 years to do what I love,” Phillips said. “What I do is for the children of Kent County Public Schools.”

The annual awards ceremony includes a keynote address from the outgoing Teacher of the Year.

The 2023 Teacher of the Year Jessica McGee, of Galena Elementary School, spoke about the start of her teaching career in Baltimore City and the joy and support she feels here.

She said she was honored to have been named the 2023 Teacher of the Year and talked about the unforgettable times she had with her peers throughout the state as they competed for Maryland’s Teacher of the Year.

McGee concluded with a special message for the staff members of Kent County Public Schools.

“It is my greatest hope that all of you in this room know how unique and valuable you are,” she said. “Your talents are needed in this world of ours. Never underestimate the difference you can make by truly being just you.”

Dan Hushion, supervisor of human resources for Kent County Public Schools, thanked the sponsors of this year’s awards: Hertrich of Elkton, which provides a vehicle to the Teacher of the Year; Chesapeake Bank and Trust; Chester River Packet Co.; the Church Hill Theatre; Evergrain Bread Co.; Java Rock; Modern Stone Age Kitchen; Molly’s Restaurant; A Shear Design; and Sweet Cheeks.

Hushion gave a special thank you to chef John Keller and his Kent County High School culinary arts students, who provided hors d’oeuvres and refreshments for the awards celebration.

In closing, Hushion recognized the family members in attendance for their support.

“Because we are working in an environment that can be intense at times and often be emotional because of how much we care, we bring it home,” Hushion told the family members. “And if it wasn’t for having all of you as our support system, we wouldn’t be able to come back that very next day to continue to do the great work that all our staff do.”

Trish McGee, owner and publisher of The Evening Enterprise, is an elected member of the Kent County Board of Education. She did not contribute to this reporting.

 

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