Nicholson McKinnon named Teacher of the Year

Parkside High School’s Lisa Nicholson McKinnon, a teacher of Math and Teacher Academy of Maryland, was named the 2018-2019 Wicomico Teacher of the Year March 22, 2018 at the annual Wicomico Teacher of the Year Banquet at the Commons at Salisbury University.

Nicholson McKinnon, a 2001 Parkside graduate, believes that building relationships is every bit as important as teaching content.

“As Wicomico Teacher of the Year, I will continue to emphasize that teaching is not always about content, but also about building meaningful and purposeful relationships with students, parents and colleagues,” she wrote in her Teacher of the Year writing prompt. “I want veteran teachers to remember the reason they wanted to be a teacher in the first place: to help students learn, grow and be able to make productive decisions to better themselves. I want new teachers to know that there are people within the community and school who are willing to help them create lessons to engage their students and provide professional development on how to address the most difficult classroom. I want my students to know that learning is about more than just the grade, it is also about the decisions, and the bonds they create that help them with their lives moving forward. Building bridges in each of these areas will foster a sense of community that will lead to a higher teacher retention rate in Wicomico County.”

The new Teacher of the Year will begin her year in style, arriving at Parkside High School in Salisbury at 9 a.m. Friday for a school celebration and some special Parkside #RAMFAM surprises. She will be chauffeured in a classic 1949 Buick provided for the occasion by Wicomico music teacher and auto enthusiast Buck Burton. She will be interviewed for a Wicomico Public Schools Showcase special on PAC 14 by Paul Butler, Director of Communications & Community Outreach for Wicomico County Public Schools.

Nicholson McKinnon, 34, received bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Communications from Salisbury University in 2006. She continued to study at SU while teaching, earning her Masters of Mathematics Secondary Education in 2013, and her Administration Certificate in 2016. In 2006 she returned to her alma mater as a teacher, and has taught Mathematics at Parkside for the past 12 years. She recently became an instructor for Parkside’s Teacher Academy of Maryland (TAM) program for future teachers, a part of Career & Technology Education. She excels as a leader and is Mathematics Department chair, Instructional Leadership Team chair, Tennis coach, Varsity Math Team coach, Senior Class advisor, and new teacher mentor. She advocates against bullying, and promoted a kindness campaign at her school. Ms. Nicholson McKinnon reaches out to students through coaching and mentoring, and encourages students to become better versions of themselves.

As Wicomico Teacher of the Year, Nicholson McKinnon represents the outstanding staff of Parkside High and the more than 1,250 teachers of Wicomico County Public Schools. For the next year, she will represent Wicomico County Public Schools in the Maryland Teacher of the Year Recognition Program, which includes the Maryland Teacher of the Year Gala in the fall. Wicomico is proud to have three former Maryland Teachers of the Year working in the school system on behalf of students: These teachers are Bonnie Walston, Aaron Deal and April Todd.

Top Teachers

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 many teachers were nominated for Teacher of the Year. After rating reviews were completed by administrators and supervisors, 25 semifinalists were selected. The task of narrowing the field of semifinalists for Wicomico County Teacher of the Year was a very challenging one.

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 as well as the evaluations 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 Nicholson McKinnon for the high school level, are:

  • Primary: Marianne Noelte, Physical Education, Westside Primary
  • Intermediate: Kate Wight, 5th Grade, Fruitland Intermediate  
  • Middle School: Kesha Cook, Middle School Math, Choices Academy

The other semifinalists for 2018-2019 Wicomico Teacher of the Year are:

  • Beaver Run Elementary: Valerie Folsom, 2nd Grade
  • Bennett Middle: Mary Laurenzano, Math
  • Charles H. Chipman Elementary: Danielle Thompson, Kindergarten
  • Delmar Elementary: Amy Hudson, 3rd Grade
  • East Salisbury Elementary: Jessica Lowe, 5th Grade English Language Arts/Social Studies
  • Fruitland Primary: Barbara Karsnitz, 2nd Grade
  • Glen Avenue Elementary: Kristen DiGiammo, 5th Grade Math
  • James M. Bennett High: Dana Hetzler, English Language Learners
  • Mardela Middle and High: Dion Johnson, Business Education
  • North Salisbury Elementary: Mary Kinnamon, 3rd Grade Magnet
  • Northwestern Elementary: Joann Evans, 5th Grade Math/Science/Social Studies
  • Pemberton Elementary: Melissa Koerner, Prekindergarten 3 Year Olds
  • Pinehurst Elementary: Ashley Mallory, 3rd Grade
  • Pittsville Elementary and Middle: Jamie Jones, 4th Grade English Language Arts
  • Prince Street Elementary: John “Chris” McLaughlin, Reading Intervention
  • Salisbury Middle: Jennifer Mudd, Physical Education
  • Westside Intermediate: Alicia Campbell, 5th Grade
  • Wicomico Early Learning Center: Freda Morris, Prekindergarten
  • Wicomico High: Erin Crissman, Spanish
  • Wicomico Middle: Laura Allen, Math
  • Willards Elementary: Nicole Rittling, Physical Education

“For all 25 semifinalists, the Teacher of the Year Recognition Program will continue long after tonight’s festivities,” said Dr. Donna C. Hanlin, “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.”

Friend of Education Award

Each year at the Wicomico County Teacher of the Year Banquet, the school system honors a Friend of Education who has generously supported Wicomico schoolchildren and schools. The 2018 award goes to kindness ambassador and lifetime educator Grace Foxwell Murdock.

Grace Foxwell Murdock, who through the sale of kindness bracelets is funding the materials cost for building buddy benches for elementary schools, chats with Supervisor of Career and Technology Education Bryan Ashby about the next steps in the buddy bench project. Her goal is to have a buddy bench at every elementary school.

Murdock has had a positive impact on tens of thousands of lives. She did this throughout her nearly four decades as a teacher, during which she created a show on PAC 14 called “Ready for School” that helped young learners and their parents build school readiness. This was before our own district-wide focus on getting students ready for Kindergarten. The program earned national accolades from the International Reading Association.

Even after her retirement from Wicomico County Public Schools, Murdock continued to be an educator. She teaches children and adults about etiquette and professionalism through her business, Professional Grace. She recently published a children’s book on etiquette called “Checker the Mannerly Cat,” with illustrations by Parkside senior Meredith Brewington.

In December 2012, after the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, she recalled a favorite quote from the great Fred Rogers – Mr. Rogers. He had said his mother taught him in times of tragedy, “always look for the helpers.”  She decided she would be a helper, and the idea for Kindness Bracelets was born. These beaded bracelets give their wearers a way to count kind acts, positive thoughts, prayers, blessings, and friends, on a daily basis. The one-of-a-kind Kindness Bracelets she creates with her own hands are sold in area stores and online through her Etsy shop. (Each of the 2018 Teacher of the Year semifinalists received a Kindness Bracelet in their gift bag.) Proceeds from bracelet sales support community needs and projects, including Buddy Benches.

When Murdock heard about the concept of a Buddy Bench – a special bench where children could sit when they need a friend – she was determined to see Buddy Benches installed on every elementary school playground in Wicomico Schools. She provided the money for building materials through Kindness Bracelet sales, and Technology Education students at Parkside High built the first set of benches, installed last summer. In the near future, every elementary school will have a Buddy Bench, and thanks to her and donors to the cause, every elementary media center receives kindness reading materials to complement the Buddy Bench.

She engaged the entire community in the worldwide Dance for Kindness for the past two years. She leads an organization called Wicomico Grows Kindness, and partners with community leaders to spread the good word about community gardens and Random Acts of Kindness Week.  She brought national kindness leaders to speak in Wicomico Schools.

Wicomico County Public Schools and the Wicomico County Board of Education celebrate Grace Foxwel Murdock as the 2018 Friend of Education. We are proud that she was one of Wicomico’s own wonderful teachers, and we are proud to witness her ongoing commitment to education and to kindness.

Sponsors of the Wicomico Teacher of the Year Program

The Wicomico Teacher of the Year Banquet is sponsored or supported by a number of generous businesses, organizations and individuals:

Platinum Level: Pro Coat LLC, The Richard A. Henson Foundation, Wicomico County Education Association

Gold Level: Perdue Farms, Vernon Powell

Silver Level: Association of Public School Administrators & Supervisors, Avery Hall Benefit Solutions Inc., The Bank of Delmarva, Dr. Carolyn Elmore, DataNetworks, Delmarva Shorebirds, Jennifer Seay Photography, Salisbury University Foundation, Tip Tough Finger Protector, W.R. McCain & Associates

Bronze Level: Becker Morgan Group Inc., The Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, Davis, Bowen & Friedel, Etch-Art Awards, Gillis Gilkerson

In-kind Donors: Buck Burton, Chasing Fireflyz, Chick-fil-A, DiCarlo Digital Copy Centers, East Side Delicatessen, Educational Supplies Inc., Instructional Resource Center, Hair Odyssey, Kevin Shockley, Kitty’s Flowers, Kuhn’s Jewelers, Lucky Star Restaurant, Macy’s, Minuteman Press, Nutters Crossing, Pablo’s Bowls, Parkside CTE Culinary Arts Students, Parkside CTE Horticulture Students, Rise Up Coffee, Salisbury Crossfit, Sonya’s Floral Boutique

Media Partners: Clear Channel Outdoor, PAC 14, Salisbury Independent, The Daily Times/, WBOC-TV


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