Jo Anne McKernon, a fourth grade teacher at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, has been selected to receive the MCPS Teacher of the Year award. McKernon will represent Montgomery County in the competition for the 2000-2001 Maryland Teacher of the Year.
McKernon found out about this honor during a surprise visit to her classroom from Superintendent Jerry D. Weast and Board of Education President Patricia B. O'Neill.
Her students cheered as she thanked them for being excellent students and praised her colleagues at Thurgood Marshall. "I'm only part of a team," McKernon said, "It's the principal, staff and parents pulling together that produce the best program for children."
McKernon and other local teachers of the year from across the state will be honored at a breakfast and meeting of the State Board of Education on May 23 and at a lunch sponsored by the Maryland Business Roundtable Foundation on the same day. The teachers also become part of a state network of exemplary educators working with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) on policy and program development, and will participate in the Maryland Teacher Forum.
All local teachers of the year will be candidates for the Maryland Teacher of the Year, who will be announced at an awards dinner at Martin's West on October 13. Finalists for the state award will be named in August.
McKernon joined MCPS as a first grade teacher at Forest Knolls Elementary School in 1993 and also taught second and fourth grade before coming to Thurgood Marshall this year. She teaches a 4th grade class of 28 students and co-teaches science with the classroom teacher for the Learning Disabled/Gifted and Talented class, providing a mainstreaming opportunity for an additional six 4th graders.
Her teaching is characterized by her view of education as a lifelong endeavor. "The idea of continuous learning makes me a teacher who models the love and excitement of learning to my students," she says.
She earned a bachelor of science degree in education from the University of Maryland in 1992. In her seven years of teaching, she has broadened her knowledge in many ways. She has completed most of the requirements for a master's degree in gifted and talented education from Johns Hopkins University and expects her master's this summer.
In addition to her graduate studies, McKernon passed the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards' rigorous program and became a National Certified Teacher in November 1999. She is one of only eight MCPS teachers who have achieved this prestigious national certification.
Although McKernon teaches all fourth grade subjects, she feels her greatest strengths are in reading and language arts. She has been trained in the William and Mary Reading Program for gifted learners and is a leader for Junior Great Books. She also co-wrote a grant for a Reading is Fundamental program called "Running Start."
She is actively involved in her school community and currently is a member of the staff development committee at her school and is mentoring three new teachers. She served on the Behavior Management Committee in her previous school. After undergoing intensive training, she led staff development meetings with a focus on the instruction of social skills. She also has led training on how to incorporate math games into instructional programs.
McKernon is constantly looking for ways to draw parents into the educational process and feels they need to hear the message "over and over again" that they are a powerful force in the success of their children. She makes exceptional efforts to keep parents informed through newsletters, phone calls and e-mail messages and involves parents and students in decision making by listening to and incorporating their ideas.
She also participates in after school activities, such as Family Math Night, that are designed to bring families into school while providing educational experiences for children. She has run similar theme nights integrating technology and the science curriculum. In 1995, McKernon was recognized by the Office of Instruction and Program development for "innovative instructional practices using technology.
Mc Kernon asserts that teaching is "the best job in the world." Her enthusiasm is reflected in the comments of one of her students. "Mrs. McKernon explains everything clearly so it is easy to learn hard things," he says. "She is the best teacher I ever had because she makes everything interesting and fun."