DCPS teacher of the year gets new wheels

Hertrich Honda-Kia of Easton gifts a brand new Kia Sorrento to Dorchester County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, Charlene Zinnel, left, for the school year, as part of its long-running efforts to support education.

CAMBRIDGE — If Dorchester County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, Charlene Zinnel, didn’t already think she was having a good year, now she has a new, shiny Kia Sorrento to prove it.

As consolation for her hard work in the classroom, Hertrich Honda-Kia of Easton gifted Zinnel a Kia Sorrento to ride around in for the entire school year.

And, with a “Teacher of the Year” banner on the back of it, there’s no denying her accomplishments.

Zinnel said Hertrich has been a big supporter of DCPS for many years, and it’s “just awesome” they continue to celebrate education.

She said it was even more meaningful to her to receive her car from Hertrich’s Easton manager, Michael McCauley, because he’s an advocate for Career and Technology Education (CTE) — which, as a Culinary Arts educator, is her teaching field.

Zinnel is the first Career and Technology Education (CTE) educator to win Teacher of the Year in the Dorchester County program’s 30 years. She also was the only CTE educator in the state of Maryland to win Teacher of the Year this year.

She said she’s honored to be able to pave a path for the future recognition of CTE educators. Plus, “it was about time” for a voice of career and technology to be heard, she said.

As for the car, which is a brand new 2019 model, Zinnel described it as “really nice.”

“My principal even says, ‘Well, when you turn it back in, let me know. Maybe we’ll buy it,’” she said. “It’s a really cool perk. So, I’m excited to get to use the car.”

Hertrich Honda-Kia of Easton General Manager Michael McCauley said Hertrich was excited to honor Zinnel. McCauley said it was particularly special to him, though, to “be able to support a teacher in the technical education realm.”

“I believe schools like the Career and Technology Center fill a gap,” he said. “We are proud to be able to support such an elite educator who is preparing the students of our community for their career on a daily basis.”

For several years, Hertrich Automotive Group has been the Oprah of Maryland, saying, “You get a new car! And you get a new car!” to teachers of the year in counties across the Eastern Shore.

But Hertrich also seeks to promote education in other ways, which is evident in its recent announcement of its “Cash for Class” program.

The program gives educators in Worcester, Somerset, Wicomico, Talbot, Dorchester and Accomack counties, either private or public, a chance to win money toward a classroom project or activity of their choice.

In order to enter, teachers are charged with creating an attention-grabbing video explaining their special project and why it deserves funding.

The winners will be determined by a panel of Hertrich and community judges. The videos that best convey passion, uniqueness and creativity, as well as need and benefit to students, will win the judges over.

The Dorchester community also will be able to participate by voting through social media on a community winner, who will receive $1,000.

Voting for the community choice award will take place from Oct. 3 through Oct. 9. The community winner won’t be allowed to also win the Hertrich award.

Hertrich said it will fund classroom projects or activities ranging from $250 to $1,000. The funds will come from a total $25,000 pot to be distributed among educators across the six counties.

On its Facebook page, DCPS wrote, “Thank you, Hertrich, for continuing to be a valued partner of Dorchester County Public Schools!”

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