DENTON — Jennifer Gunter, a fifth-grade teacher at Greensboro Elementary School, is Caroline County Public Schools’ 2017-18 Teacher of the Year.
The announcement was made Monday, April 24, at the Caroline County Public Library in Denton, at a gala held for all nine finalists and their families, and again Tuesday, April 25, in Gunter’s classroom.
Gunter will represent Caroline County in Maryland’s Teacher of the Year competition in the fall. She and the other 23 winners across the state will participate in a wide range of activities throughout the coming school year.
“I’m just shocked,” Gunter said after the announcement April 24. “I feel amazing, especially knowing the nomination came from my students and their parents.
“I am super proud to represent Caroline County.”
Anyone can nominate a teacher they feel is deserving of the award. Finalists then go through a rigorous process of writing and interviewing before a committee chooses the winner.
Gunter has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Wesley College and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from McDaniel College.
She has taught for 20 years, the past 14 in Caroline County, in a variety of settings, including as a co-teacher in both a special education inclusion classroom and in an English Language Learners classroom.
She said the best part of her job is talking to her students every day.
“Just getting to know them is the best part,” Gunter said. “They’re so funny. I hear the best stories every day.”
Gunter, a first-time nominee, said she decided to undergo the process to be considered for the award when she found out she had been nominated by her students.
“I figured if my kids believe in me, I’ll do it,” Gunter said.
The push to nominate Gunter was led by students Julianne Hofmann, Alexis Smith, Jozilyn Weaver and Arnoldo Ramirez.
When Caroline County Public Schools administrators visited Gunter’s classroom April 25 to tell the class their efforts paid off, Julianne said she nominated her teacher because she is both fun and funny.
The class said they want Gunter to pick blue when she gets to choose the color of the new car she will get to drive through the 2017-18 school year, courtesy of the Preston Automotive Group.
Gunter said she is most excited about meeting her fellow Teachers of the Year from around the state.
“I’m looking forward to listening to their different experiences, and sharing in some of their joys,” Gunter said.
At the gala Monday, 2016-17 Teacher of the Year Marcia Porter said whoever was about to be announced as the new winner should most look forward to everything.
Porter said whether she was crabbing off the shores of Smith Island, visiting the White House or attending a Maryland Terps game, the best part was hanging out with 23 other people as deeply passionate about teaching.
“Look forward to and enjoy all of it,” Porter said.
Superintendent Dr. Patricia Saelens thanked all nine finalists for going through the process, during which she hoped they all learned a little about themselves.
“There are many teachers in Caroline County who rise to the occasion every day, but unfortunately, only one can represent the county at the state level,” Saelens said.
Caroline County Board of Education President James Newcomb said just going through the nomination process was practically another full-time job.
“You represent your profession and your county well,” Newcomb said of all the finalists. “Thank you for all the work you do every day.”
The other eight finalists were Amy Bauman, a third-grade teacher at Denton Elementary School; Jodie Callahan, CASE animal instructor at the Caroline Career and Technology Center; Jessica Gernert, a second-grade teacher at Greensboro Elementary School; Cathy Heinsohn, a first-grade teacher at Ridgely Elementary School; Shawn Parks, an eighth-grade English teacher at Lockerman Middle School; Rachel Shelly, a seventh-grade science teacher at Lockerman Middle School; Jared Sherman, a U.S. history teacher at Colonel Richardson High School; and Miranda Stutzman, a third-grade teacher at Greensboro Elementary School.