Jennie Merrill, a fifth-grade teacher at Severna Park Elementary School, has been named one of seven finalists for the 2015-2016 Maryland Teacher of the Year by the Maryland State Department of Education.
Merrill is the third Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) teacher to be named a finalist for the state award in the last three years. South River High School Spanish teacher Jodie Hogan was a finalist in 2013, and Southern Middle School language arts teacher Laura Groo Carter was a finalist in 2011. AACPS has had 13 finalists since 1986-87, and two of those – Patricia Neidhardt in 1989 and Linda Adamson in 1994 – have been named Maryland Teacher of the Year.
“I am beyond excited to be selected to represent Anne Arundel County as a state finalist,” Merrill said this morning after learning of the honor in a phone call from Superintenden George Arlotto. “This is one of the greatest honors I could ever ask for as a teacher, and I am so proud to be a part of something so special. I have the pure joy of doing what I absolutely love to do every day knowing that I play some small part in the betterment of the lives of children. No teacher could ask for anything more!”
Merrill was named AACPS’ 2015 Anne Arundel County Public Schools Teacher of the Year in April. She is just the third elementary school teacher in the last 16 years to win the county award, and the seventh since the program’s inception in 1986-87.
Merrill has been teaching in Anne Arundel County Public Schools for 15 years, all at Severna Park Elementary School. She has earned National Board Certification, and brings what Principal Lynn Birus calls an “unparalleled energy, love, and enthusiasm for her students and her subjects” to her classroom every day.
“She motivates and inspires her students every day and there is never a doubt that they are loved,” Birus said of Merrill. “One of her remarkable gifts is that she is somehow able to showcase her students’ strengths while downplaying any weaknesses. As you walk into Mrs. Merrill’s classroom you will hear and see high level instruction, punctuated with her kooky alter ego, Professor Labcoat; cheesy videos; crazy projects; and relentless attention to student needs. She exudes a positive energy and drive that is totally contagious. Her presence helps shape the entire school’s culture.”
Other finalists for the Maryland Teacher of the Year are Stephanie Marchbank of Allegany County, Ryan Kaiser of Baltimore City, Amanda Portner of Frederick County, Stephanie Geddie of Howard County, Barbara Sutherland of Queen Anne’s County, and Sally Irwin of Washington County.
The Maryland Teacher of the Year will be announced on October 9, 2015.