2023 - 2024 Maryland Teachers of the Year Bios

Dr. Joseph Thompson

Allegany County – Dr. Joseph Thompson, Fort Hill School, Instrumental Music, Grades 9-12

Dr. Joseph Thompson is an experienced music educator in Allegany County. He holds Doctorate (2020) and Master of Education (2010) degrees from Frostburg State University, and a Bachelor’s Degree (2001) from Alderson/Broaddus College. An advocate for the arts and student leadership, Dr. Thompson prioritizes facilitating student-led community initiatives. He serves as the Allegany County Education Association school representative, Department Chair, and on several committees. Dr. Thompson’s dissertation examined the effects of a marching band performance illustrating homelessness, “In Plain Sight.” Under Dr. Thompson, the Fort Hill instrumental music programs are consistently recognized for achievements and community support.

Mary Kay Connerton

Anne Arundel County – Mary Kay Connerton, Annapolis High School, Physical Education/Wellness, Grades 9-12

Mary Kay Connerton is a fierce advocate for student wellness. Serving as Wellness Coordinator at Annapolis High School, Anne Arundel County named her Teacher of the Year. The wellness program she created assists the school community with living healthfully, leading to a Wellness School of Distinction. She co-leads the Trauma Team and programs that focus on healing and connecting communities. She pioneered the first yoga program and Social Emotional Learning/Wellness curriculum for 25,000 students. She received the 2020 SHAPE Friend Award and earned a Master’s in Special Education (2010) and a Bachelor’s in Childhood Education (2008) from SUNY Cortland.

Jared Perry

Baltimore City – Jared Perry, Booker T. Washington Middle School for the Arts, Instrumental Music, Grades 9-12

Jared Perry received his Master of Arts in Teaching (2013) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Instrumental Music (2009) from Morgan State University. Currently, he serves as the Band Director, Arts Team Lead, Technology Manager, and Senior Leadership Team member at Booker T. Washington Middle school for the Arts. Jared is also a Brass Teaching Artist, Ensemble Director of the brass band, has led various ensembles, and mentored teachers as he is serving students across multiple schools through the BSO’s OrchKids program. He mentors UMBC Music Education majors by opening his classroom for weekly observations and musical collaborations with his students.

Beverly Folkoff

Baltimore County – Beverly Folkoff, Relay Elementary School, Special Education, Grades 3-5

Beverly Folkoff, a special education teacher at Relay Elementary School, has taught in BCPS for 15 years. A native of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education from Towson University (2007) and her Master’s Degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Virginia (2011). She also earned a certification in educational administration from Notre Dame College of Maryland (2014). Folkoff serves on the Board of Directors for the Teachers Association of Baltimore County. And in her classroom, Folkoff strives to create the “3 L”s -- Life skills, Loving environments, and lots of Laughter!

John Allen

Calvert County – John Allen, Huntingtown High School, English & Journalism, Grades 9-12

John S. Allen received his Bachelor’s Degree in English from Dartmouth College, MAT from Wesleyan University, and MA in Radio, TV, and Film from Northwestern. John initially taught English for four years at New Trier High School in Winnetka, IL. He then entered the world of documentary film production with the American Red Cross and established his own documentary and educational film production company, Signature Communications. John now serves full time at Huntingtown High School where he teaches film, journalism, and broadcasting. He is a student mentor, member of the Equity Team and advisor to the school newspaper.

Rob Honer

Caroline County – Robert Honer, Colonel Richardson Middle School, Science, Grade 6

Rob Honer received his degree in Elementary Education from Towson University, followed by a Graduate degree from Salisbury University. Mr. Honer has taught sixth grade science at Colonel Richardson Middle School for 24 years, and established the First Lego League Team for students which is now a part of the school’s STEM philosophy and Gifted and Talented Program fulfillment. He is also a musician who partnered with other agencies in 2011 to create the Young Musicians Summer Academy, which to date has served over 500 students, and the Courthouse Community Band which features former and current students.

Lauren Stevens

Carroll County – Lauren Stevens, Manchester Valley High School, Biology & Human Anatomy, Grades 10-12

Lauren Stevens’ versatility within the curriculum enables her to excel in teaching the most challenged learners to the most gifted students. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Washington College (2004) and a Master’s Degree from McDaniel College (2010). Lauren teaches Biology and Human Anatomy in grades 10 -12. She has led efforts to establish a Green School, developed a portion of the state recognized American Chestnut curriculum and collaborated on MSDE’s Literacy Framework Update. Lauren also provides professional development for her colleagues and serves as an outstanding mentor for interns and student teachers.

Brianne Souder

Cecil County – Brianne Souder, Rising Sun High School, Fine Arts, Grades 9-12

Brianne Souder is a visual arts educator with 17 years of experience. She received her bachelor’s from Penn State University and her master’s from Montclair State University. She is a committed advocate for arts education and has presented at the county, state, and national levels. Brianne is passionate about teaching students about the world through the visual arts and the mental health benefits it provides. She delivers engaging, diverse, and enriching experiences to guide students in discovering their potential while addressing their social emotional needs.

Michelle Bradshaw

Charles County – Michelle Bradshaw, Maurice J. McDonough High School, Special Education, Grades 9-12

Michelle Bradshaw received her advanced professional certificate in Special Education from Trinity University (2001) and a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature from the State University of New York at Oswego (1994). Currently, a special education teacher, she coordinates the Best Buddies Program, and mentors students in the Teachers Academy of Maryland Program. She facilitates the inclusion of her students at school, partnering with staff to provide them with meaningful worksites on campus. In addition, her students have run the school coffee shop for the past fifteen years. She was named the ARC of Southern Maryland’s Educator of the Year in 2011.

Briana Beulah

Dorchester County – Briana Beulah, Sandy Hill Elementary School, General Studies, Grade 5

Briana Beulah received her Bachelor’s Degree in Education with a minor in Psychology from Salisbury University (2015) and will be completing her Master’s Degree in Education/Administration and Supervision from University of Phoenix (2023). Currently, as a 5th grade teacher, she leads a team of inspiring teachers that has successfully implemented the Ron Clarke’s House Academy program at Sandy Hill Elementary. In 2021, she received the first Emily’s Excellence in Education recognition. Briana is currently serving as one of Dorchester County’s Buddy Teachers, is a mentor to a Salisbury University intern, and a youth leader at Kingdom Builders Ministries.

Nicole Rhoades

Frederick County – Nicole Rhoades, Windsor Knolls Middle School, Science, Grade 7

Nicole Rhoades is in her 13th year of teaching seventh grade science at Windsor Knolls Middle School, where she organized the first school-wide science fair, STEM Career Day, and educational opportunities at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. She earned National Board Certification in Early Adolescent Science in 2013 and coaches other teachers pursuing National Board Certification. She earned a bachelor’s in biology from Salisbury University and has previously conducted biomedical research at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute. She was an Excellence in Gifted and Talented Education Award winner and was a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching nominee.

Ali Schilpp

Garrett County – Ali Schilpp, Northern Middle School, Literacy Enrichment/Technology Education, Grades 7-8

Ali Schilpp is a National Board-Certified Teacher and has been a library media specialist for 21 years. Her work experience includes libraries in Baltimore and Garrett County, Maryland. Ali strives to make the school library the heart of the school. A place to engage every learner and foster multiple literacies. She was the School Library Journal’s 2018 School Librarian of the Year, received the 2019 Advocate Award from Frostburg’s Children’s Literature Centre, and is a LEGO® Education Ambassador. Ali earned a Master's Degree in Instructional Technology with K-12 certification from Towson University (2005) and a Bachelor’s Degree from Stevenson University (2000).

Michael Brogley

Harford County – Michael Brogley, C. Milton Wright High School, Social Studies, Grades 9-12

Michael Brogley received his Master’s Degrees in Instruction, Curriculum, and Assessment from Walden University (2013) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in History from Towson University (2008). He currently serves as a Social Sciences teacher and is the adviser of his school’s chapter of the National Honor Society. He additionally is a member of the School Performance and Achievement Team and serves as the Coordinator of the HCPS Student Page Program. He was also the founder of the successful Stand Up for Autism program and serves as an adjunct professor in History at Harford Community College.

Dr. Laura Moore

Howard County – Dr. Laura Moore, Waverly Elementary School, General Studies, Grade 2

Dr. Laura Moore creates a culturally responsive learning environment of inclusivity and collaboration by engaging students, staff, and families as valuable educational partners. She has the reputation as an instructional leader, and caring individual by all who have the pleasure of interacting with her. As a National Board Ce1iified teacher, she is a life-long learner who strives for excellence not only for herself, but also for everyone she serves. Dr. Moore's belief in fostering meaningful relationships serves as the foundation for everything she does, and her highly effective teaching and leadership style continues to influence teacher leaders throughout the district.

Jessica McGee

Kent County – Jessica McGee, Galena Elementary School, General Studies, Grade 2

Jessie McGee earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Viola Performance from the University of Colorado and a Master’s Degree in Viola Performance from the Peabody Conservatory. She completed her Early Childhood certification through the Baltimore City Teaching Residency in 2009. From 2020-2022 McGee was part of MSDE’s Lead Teacher Team which developed and supported Elementary Social Studies curriculum. Currently as a second-grade teacher, McGee chairs the Environmental Committee and leads the Student Green Team where she implemented a schoolwide composting program. She also received a MSRPA grant for a “Watch Me Grow” project that provides materials for classrooms to hatch chicks.

Shannon McKenzie

Montgomery County – Shannon McKenzie, Clarksburg High School, Child Development, Grades 9-12

Shannon McKenzie holds a Bachelor’s Degree in early childhood education from Towson University, and a Master’s Degree in mental health and wellness from Grand Canyon University. As the current Child Development teacher at Clarksburg High School (CHS), she is also the Coyote Pup Preschool Director, Education Intern Coordinator, and CHS Chapter Educators Rising Teacher Leader. She is very proud to also have served MCPS as an educator with the Preschool Education Program (Preschool SPED) from 2016 to 2021. Mrs. McKenzie is also very active serving children and families in Frederick County, as the owner of a private preschool since 2000.

Mary Truman

Prince George’s County – Mary Truman, Kenmoor Early Childhood Center, Early Childhood Special Education, Grades Pre-Kindergarten – 4

Mary Truman received her Master’s Degree in Special Education (2004) and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Hearing and Speech Sciences from the University of Maryland (2000). Mary has been teaching preschoolers with autism since 2000. Mary serves as team leader, school representative for the Core Vocabulary initiative, and a mentor for new teachers. Mary is a member of the RDI teacher certification program and is currently receiving mentorship from Kennedy Krieger Institute as a member of a cohort. Mary has been recognized by the City of Bowie as both Teacher of the Month and Teacher of the Year. In 2017, Mary and her team Biked to the Beach, raising $12,000 for Autism Speaks.

Andrea Schulte

Queen Anne’s County – Andrea Schulte, Kent Island High School, Visual Arts, Grades 9-12

Andrea Schulte is a passionate teacher leader, championing student-centered approaches to teaching the whole child through student choice/voice and social emotional learning in and out of the classroom. Her career began in 2001 as a science teacher before becoming a middle and high school Visual Arts teacher. Her professional experiences include serving as the Art Department Chair, Statewide Presenter, National Art Honor Society Sponsor, and National Honor Society Advisor. She has a bachelor’s in art education and a master’s in Art Education with a concentration in Art Therapy from Edinboro University.

Alisha Swann

St. Mary’s County – Alisha Swann, Esperanza Middle School, English/Language Arts, Grade 8

Alisha Swann received her Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction (2020) from McDaniel College and her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Adolescent Education and English Literature (2015) from Elmira College. As an 8th Grade English Language Arts teacher and the Equity School Site Leader, she creates equitable multicultural resources for staff to educate students. She is the ELA Department Chair and tutors students after school. Alisha has spoken at various church events and collaborates with the Teacher Academy of Maryland Program. Also, she has volunteered with the NAACP Back to School Events and has been recognized by Blacks in Government.

Tania Cunningham-Raycrow

Somerset County – Tania Cunningham-Raycrow, Somerset Intermediate School, Comprehensive Special Education, Grades 6-7

Tania Cunningham-Raycrow received her Master’s Degree in ESOL from Salisbury University (2016) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (1998). She began her career with SCPS as a substitute teacher in 1998 and is currently a special education comprehensive classroom teacher providing hands-on support to students with significant cognitive delays in all core content areas as well as Life Skills; she provides personalized instruction through the SCPS Home and Hospital program and serves as the county’s Alt-assessment facilitator. Tania serves her community through faith-based mentoring programs including college prep initiatives. 

Cindy Rossbach

Talbot County – Cindy Rossbach, Easton Elementary School, Special Education, Grades 2-3

Cindy Rossbach received her Master’s Degree in Science of Education from Walden University (2019) and her Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education from Liberty University (2015). She is a special education teacher. Cindy supports her students by applying Grading for Equity and Conscious Discipline components, which she presented the systemic pieces during her county’s Equity Summit. Cindy is a Culturally Relevant Teaching Committee member sharing elements during professional development, is actively involved in her youth group, and is an adult Sunday School teacher. Also, Talbot County Special Education Citizen’s Advisory Committee just acknowledged her positive impact on students this school year.

Raymond Weber

Washington County – Raymond Weber, Salem Avenue Elementary School, English/Language Arts, Grade 8

Raymond Weber, a 13-year fifth grade teacher at a Title I school, empowers students to realize their potential and develops their knowledge, skills, and confidence to succeed in and beyond the classroom. He earned his bachelor’s in Elementary Education at Shepherd University and master’s in Instructional Design and Technology at West Virginia University. He is a team leader, curriculum writer, and mentor for Destination Imagination and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. He earned the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and is a Fulbright Teacher for Global Classrooms.

Tara Martens

Wicomico County – Tara Martens, West Salisbury Elementary School, Math Intervention, Grades 1-2

Tara Martens, an 11-year teacher in Wicomico County, holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Salisbury University and a master’s in Special Education from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. She is the Math Intervention Teacher at West Salisbury Elementary, where she re-writes contemporary songs connecting music with math for her students. She co-chairs both the Instructional Leadership Team and the Family Engagement Committee. She also initiated a Grades 1 and 2 Title I Summer Tutoring Program, worked for Home and Hospital, and tutored students experiencing homelessness under a district initiative. She was honored with the McEducator Award of Excellence.

Dr. Jaimie Ridgely

Worcester County – Dr. Jaimie Ridgely, Stephen Decatur Middle School, Literacy Enrichment & Technology Education, Grades 7-8

Jaimie Ridgely is a National Board Certified teacher. She is a literacy enthusiast who prioritizes identity exploration and joy in her Literacy Enrichment and Technology Education classes at Stephen Decatur Middle School. Community, voice, choice, and reflection are cornerstones of her student-centered classroom where students share their creative voices within and beyond the classroom walls. She earned her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Salisbury University. She is a 21-year veteran teacher who also serves as an adjunct professor, Worcester LEAD teacher, peer mentor, professional development facilitator, and serves as an afterschool sponsor for the Book Club, tutoring, and Dungeons and Dragons.