Christen Tacka is Wicomico’s 2017-18 Teacher of the Year

Christen Tacka, an intervention teacher at Prince Street Elementary School who works every day to help students in her reading groups and throughout the school become more confident and successful, was honored as the 2017-2018 Wicomico Teacher of the Year.

“I tell people that I love my job. I know it sounds corny but I love getting up every day and going into my school and being able to positively interact with students,” Tacka said. “Some students are not currently in my reading groups, but they are students I interact with on the bus ramp or in the hallway.

“I love all students who are at our school and I do everything I can to help the students believe in themselves and to let them know that they are valued,” she said.

Tacka was feted last Thursday at the annual Wicomico Teacher of the Year Banquet at the Commons at Salisbury University.

Asked for a memory that truly defines why she teaches, Tacka said many memories come to mind from the past 22 years of her career in public education. But the one that stands out most clearly happened just this year with a girl in 1st grade at Prince Street.

“It was very challenging when this student and I first met. One of the things she said to me was, ‘I’m not a reader. I can’t read. Reading is just too hard for me.’ And so I knew I needed to pay close attention to her as we were in reading group.

“One day it was time for us to move up a level in reading and we were starting a new book, and I could see in her eyes that she was very nervous about whether she was going to be able to read this book. So I gave the students a pep talk, told them to remember all the strategies that we’ve learned throughout the school year.”

As the students read independently, Tacka leaned in to check on each one. “I was watching her read the words on the page, turn each page, and as she’s reading successfully her eyes are as big as saucers, her smile is as wide as can be … She was just beaming with pride and couldn’t stand it, and she shouted, ‘I’m a reader, Mrs. Tacka, I’m a reader!’ That is definitely a memory that stands out for me and defines why I teach.”

Tacka, 48, received a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Towson University in 1991, and her Masters of Education in Reading Instruction from Goucher College in 2005. She taught for 14 years in Harford County Public Schools, then joined Wicomico Schools in 2009 as a Reading/English/Language Arts teacher at Mardela Middle and High.

She has been an intervention teacher at Prince Street Elementary since 2012. She was instrumental in creating a Student Government Association and a mentoring partnership between at-risk readers and Salisbury University interns. Ms. Tacka is currently the parent engagement coordinator for her school, and serves as a mentor for the Wicomico Mentoring Project.

As Wicomico Teacher of the Year, Tacka represents the outstanding staff of Prince Street 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.

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 2017 award was presented to the Wicomico Public Libraries and the Friends of the Wicomico Public Libraries for their commitment to the education of students, families and the community. Plaques were presented to Mrs. Andrea Berstler, Executive Director of Wicomico Public Libraries, and Mrs. Susan Bounds, chair of the Friends of the Wicomico Public Libraries.

The Wicomico County Public School System is fortunate to have many partners in our community who join us in the important mission of providing a quality education and a great future for every student. Wicomico Public Libraries includes several locations including one right next to Pittsville Elementary and Middle, and a Bookmobile that travels to elementary schools.

The library not only has books, it has cultural events, computers, a children’s activity room, Project Read, and more. For many years, the downtown library has hosted the school system’s Elementary & Secondary Student Art Show, offering a central venue to showcase the talents of more than a thousand of our student artists. The library has partnered with the school system to offer Parent University sessions to help foster family engagement. Wicomico Public Libraries is one of the driving forces behind the upcoming Salisbury Book Festival, which will spotlight literacy and gather book donations to go to Title 1 schools in Wicomico County.

Friends of the Wicomico Public Libraries help to make many of services available such as the Homework Help Center for students in Kindergarten through 8th Grade. On April 20th, the Friends will put on the annual Light of Literacy Awards, which celebrate individuals such as our teachers, students, and community programs that support our students, such as Delmarva Pets on Wheels which allows students to read to dogs. The Friends are doing a wonderful job of supporting literacy and learning, said Dr. Margo Handy, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, as she announced the Friend of Education award.

 

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