Maryland Teacher of the Year Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship has been selected as one of four finalists for 2013 National Teacher of the Year.
Ms. Holmes-Blankenship, an English teacher at Rising Sun High School in Cecil County, was named the 2012-13 Maryland Teacher of the Year last October. She will be competing against teachers from Florida, New Hampshire, and Washington for the national honor. This prestigious program, sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers, allows teachers from across the country to collaborate with policy makers at every level and advocate on behalf of the teaching profession.
“Rhonda is a terrific classroom teacher who challenges and respects her students,” said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian M. Lowery. “It is teachers like Rhonda who spend their lives giving back to the profession in the service of our nation's children who have been critical in distinguishing Maryland among its national peers.”
Her colleagues in Cecil County are thrilled with the recognition. Cecil County Superintendent D’Ette Devine said this was a proud moment for everyone in the system.
“Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship has a compelling message to share and I am so pleased that she has successfully progressed through each phase of this process so that she can continue to impart that message on the state and now national stage,” Dr. Devine said. “This announcement validates on a national level what Cecil County has long recognized—that Rhonda is an extraordinarily talented educator with an unwavering commitment to her students and to public education. We are especially proud of the fact that she herself is a product of our school system and attributes much of her success to the teachers who provided her with the same support and compassion that she now gives to her own students. She truly represents the excellence and dedication of our Cecil County teachers.”
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 road to becoming Maryland’s Teacher of the Year was filled with challenges for Ms. Holmes-Blankenship, who acknowledges that education wasn’t always an important part of her life. She is from a large, working-class family for whom economic and academic success was often difficult. Ms. Holmes-Blankenship credits several of her teachers with her transformation from a girl considering dropping out of school, to a student with college aspirations. 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 received a Master of Science in Curriculum and Instruction from McDaniel College in 2005. She is a National Board Certified Teacher. Every year states select a state teacher of the year to participate in the National Teacher of the Year Program. A panel representing 15 national education organizations, convened by CCSSO, chose the four finalists from the 2013 state teachers of the year. The selection committee then personally interviews each finalist and selects the National Teacher of the Year. In April the National Teacher will be announced by CCSSO. The President of the United States recognizes the National Teacher each year in a White House ceremony.
Maryland has two other finalists for National Teacher of the Year in recent years – Montgomery County kindergarten teacher Kimberly Oliver Burnim in 2006 and Frederick County chemistry teacher Michelle Shearer in 2011. Both were named National Teacher of the Year.
Maryland Teacher of the Year is a program of the Maryland State Department of Education with major underwriting provided by corporations and other organizations. Presenting sponsors include Comcast, McDonald’s Family of Maryland, Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, and Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems. 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 marked the 22ndanniversary of Maryland’s Teacher of the Year Gala.