Christy Briggs, a 6th-Grade English Language Arts teacher at Bennett Middle School who has a passion for literacy and a strong belief in her own responsibility to model lifelong learning, was honored as the 2016-2017 Wicomico Teacher of the Year March 17, 2016 at the annual Wicomico Teacher of the Year Banquet at the Commons at Salisbury University.
The new Teacher of the Year runs a student book club at Bennett Middle, mentors aspiring teachers in her classroom, helps lead her school’s faith-based partnership with Oak Ridge Baptist Church (including a schoolwide carnival and a Hope for the Holidays outreach program), and is active in state and local reading councils. A 19-year teacher who is National Board Certified in Early/Middle Childhood Reading/Language Arts, Briggs has long been recognized and appreciated as an outstanding educator. In recent years she has been a Teacher of the Year finalist twice, a semifinalist twice, and now the 2016-2017 Wicomico Teacher of the Year.
“What I love about teaching is I get to make history every single day,” Briggs said during her semifinalist video interview. “I get to make mistakes, I get to learn from my mistakes, and I get to show my students that I do this so they can see that as something they will be doing for the rest of their lives. I love that I get to introduce new authors and genres to students. I love that I get to see their passion about reading develop and grow. I love that they find me years later and tell me that they’re still reading, or that they loved my class, or that they’re writing something and they’re enjoying it. I love that I hear from my students’ parents on a regular basis about how I’ve impacted their child’s life.”
The new Teacher of the Year will begin her year in style, arriving at Bennett Middle School at 9:15 a.m. Friday chauffeured in a classic 1949 Buick provided for the occasion by Wicomico music teacher and auto enthusiast Buck Burton. She will be featured, along with this year's three finalists and 22 semifinalists, in a Wicomico Schools’ Teacher of the Year special airing soon on PAC 14.
Briggs is a 1991 graduate of Parkside High School, and is part of a family committed to public education in Wicomico County. In this generation alone: Her husband, Brian Briggs, is an assistant principal at Wicomico Middle School. Her sister-in-law, Kristen Briggs, is an elementary TAD (Thinking and Doing) teacher married to Brian’s brother, Frederick “Rick” Briggs, the principal of Mardela Middle and High.
Briggs received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Salisbury University in 1995, and her Masters of Education in Reading from SU in 2001. She has been an educator in Wicomico County Public Schools since 1997, teaching at Prince Street Elementary (1997-2007), Fruitland Intermediate (2007-2014), and Bennett Middle (2014-present). Briggs enjoys both participating in and delivering professional development on the craft of teaching.
“I strive to continue to grow and improve as a teacher, but even as a seasoned teacher I recognize that I cannot do that alone. The best way to improve public education is to hire quality teachers, invest in the professional development of new and seasoned teachers, and recognize that programs do not fix schools, great teachers do. This will only happen if we invest in ALL of our teachers,” she wrote in her writing prompt for the Teacher of the Year judging process.
As Wicomico Teacher of the Year, Briggs represents the outstanding staff of Bennett Middle and the more than 1,250 teachers of Wicomico County Public Schools. Later this year, she will represent Wicomico County Public Schools in the Maryland Teacher of the Year contest. Wicomico is proud to have three former Maryland Teachers of the Year, Bonnie Walston, Aaron Deal and April Todd, working in the school system on behalf of students.
The annual Teacher of the Year Banquet spotlights not just the year's most outstanding teacher, but all Wicomico educators who demonstrate outstanding leadership, a commitment to excellence, dedication to teaching the children of the community, and professional achievement. This year more than 100 teachers were nominated. After rating reviews were completed by administrators and supervisors, the 26 semifinalists were selected. The task of narrowing the field of semifinalists for the title of Wicomico County Teacher of the Year was a very challenging one, said Lisa Forbush, co-chair of Wicomico’s Teacher of the Year recognition program with Laura Bounds and Joyce Lewis.
Each semifinalist interviewed with a blue-ribbon judging panel, participated in a public speaking challenge called a “fishbowl,” and completed a writing exercise. Scores from each of these steps were compiled to determine the winning finalist for each of the four school levels, with the highest-scoring finalist becoming the Wicomico Teacher of the Year.
Finalists, in addition to Briggs for the middle school level, are:
Primary: Cindy Becker, Prekindergarten, Wicomico Early Learning Center
Intermediate: Stacy Wheeler, 3rd Grade, Fruitland Intermediate
High School: Bill Duck, Modern World History, Wicomico High
The other semifinalists for 2016-2017 Wicomico Teacher of the Year are:
Beaver Run Elementary: Kathleen Rush, 2nd Grade
Charles H. Chipman Elementary: Tamara Filippelli, Intervention
Choices Academy: Starla Blank, Special Education
Delmar Elementary: Vanessa Stein, 3rd Grade
East Salisbury Elementary: Rebekah Davis-Slade, Media Specialist
Fruitland Primary: Jessica Hanes, Kindergarten
Glen Avenue Elementary: Jessica Womer, 2nd Grade
James M. Bennett High: Erin Davis, Art
Mardela Middle and High: Nancy Guillemart, History and Social Studies
North Salisbury Elementary: Diana Hill, 3rd Grade
Northwestern Elementary: Melissa Echard, 5th Grade
Parkside High: David Miles, CTE Project Lead the Way
Pemberton Elementary: Arnetta Thomas, 5th Grade English Language Arts
Pinehurst Elementary: Audra Phippin, 2nd Grade
Pittsville Elementary and Middle: Lindsay McCauley, 5th Grade English Language Arts
Prince Street Elementary: Ariel Thomas, 2nd Grade English Language Arts
Salisbury Middle: Carole Rollins, 7th Grade Science
West Salisbury Elementary: Meeka McCoy, 2nd Grade
Westside Intermediate: Kimble Messick, 5th Grade English Language Arts
Westside Primary: Christina Stewart, 1st Grade
Wicomico Middle: Alison Davis, 6th Grade English Language Arts
Willards Elementary: Carolyn Check, 2nd Grade
“We are pleased to announce that for all 26 semifinalists, the Teacher of the Year Recognition Program will continue long after tonight’s festivities,” said Dr. John Fredericksen, Superintendent of Schools. “The semifinalists will be part of a year-long think tank that will meet periodically with school system leaders to share their insights and ideas and to brainstorm solutions to issues in education. We thank the semifinalists for their ongoing service in representing their schools.”
Friend of Education Award
Each year at the Wicomico County Teacher of the Year Awards Banquet, the school system also honors a "Friend of Education" who has generously supported Wicomico schoolchildren and schools. This year’s recipient is Norman Conway for his service to Wicomico students, families, community, and state.
He was born in Salisbury and attended Wicomico County Public Schools. After earning his education degree from what is now Salisbury University, Mr. Conway taught and served as vice principal and principal of Pinehurst Elementary. He went on to serve Wicomico Schools as the supervisor of Title I programs until he retired after more than 40 years of service. He is married to 1989-90 Wicomico Teacher of the Year and longtime Glen Avenue Elementary Principal Jan Conway, and together they have devoted more than eight decades of their lives to the children, families and staff of Wicomico County Public Schools.
Mr. Conway’s professional activities as an educator are only part of his story. He is a life member of the Salisbury Fire Department, and was president of the Wicomico County Fireman’s Association in 1986. He served on the Salisbury City Council from 1974-1987, including one year as Council President. In 1986 he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, where he won re-election six times and served until 2014. As a member, vice chairman and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, he had an impact on important funding decisions throughout the state. He also served on numerous education committees, helping to shape Maryland’s public school system into one that is among the best in the nation.
“We can see and celebrate his influence in buildings and projects and programs throughout our community and our state. He has been a true public servant and citizen,” said Dr. Margo Handy, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction. “We are so very, very grateful for the lifelong commitment of Mr. Norman Conway to supporting public education in Wicomico County. With this Friend of Education award, we celebrate his service as an active and engaged member of his community, both locally and throughout Maryland.”
Sponsors of the Wicomico Teacher of the Year Program
The Wicomico County Teacher of the Year Banquet is sponsored or supported by a number of generous businesses, organizations and individuals.
Platinum Level: Wicomico County Education Association
Gold Level: CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Data Networks, Dr. Carolyn Elmore, Salisbury University, Vernon Powell
Silver Level: A and R Productions, Association of Public School Administrators & Supervisors, Atlantic Pumping Inc., Delmarva Shorebirds, Giant Food Inc.
Bronze Level: Davis, Bowen, & Friedel, Etch-Art Awards, W. R. McCain & Associates
In-kind Donors: Buck Burton, Chick-fil-A, East Side Delicatessen, Educational Supplies, Inc., How Sweet It Is, Instructional Resource Center, Irish Penny, Jennifer Seay Photography, Kitty’s Flowers, Kuhn’s Jewelers, Macy’s, Parkside CTE Culinary Students, Parkside CTE Horticulture Students, Richard A. Henson Family YMCA, Sonya’s Flowers, Thirty-One
Media Partners: The Daily Times/delmarvanow.com, WBOC-TV, PAC 14