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Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) is accepting nominations for the 2019 Charles E. Tressler Distinguished Teacher Award. Named for a former Hood College faculty member who encouraged young people to enter the teaching profession, this award recognizes an FCPS teacher who has had a significant positive impact on young people.

Hood College presents the Tressler award annually to honor distinguished teaching in the Frederick County public schools system. A gift from the late Samuel Eig of Gaithersburg established the award. Hood College will recognize the winner during its master’s degree reception on Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

FCPS has posted eligibility and nomination criteria, nomination process and selection guidelines at The school system welcomes nominations from current or former students, teachers and support staff, parents, community members, administrators, and supervisors.

Nomination packets are due to the FCPS Communication Services Office, 191 S. East Street, Frederick, MD 21701, by 3:00 p.m., Friday, March 22, 2019.

Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) is accepting nominations for the school system’s 2019 Support Employee of the Year Awards. The awards recognize outstanding members of FCPS support staff.

Nomination eligibility, criteria, and process information are online at Nomination packets are due Thursday, March 28, 2019, by 3:00 p.m. to the FCPS Communication Services Office, 191 S. East Street, Frederick, MD 21701.

FCPS will recognize one finalist from each of eight broad job classifications at the June 12 Board of Education meeting.

The job classifications are bus drivers; business support (which includes some Food and Nutrition Services, Transportation Office/Garage, and Technology Services positions); non-school-based custodian/maintenance/warehouse staff; school-based custodian/maintenance staff; Food and Nutrition Services staff; instructional and mainstream assistants/community liaisons/user support specialists; non-school-based secretaries; and school-based secretaries.

During the recognition, Superintendent Dr. Theresa Alban will name two of the eight finalists—one school-based and one non-school-based—the 2019 Support Employees of the Year.

It is time to recognize that special teacher who has made an impact on your child’s life and on your school community. Do you know a teacher who goes beyond what is expected? You can let this teacher know how important he/she has been to you by nominating him/her for the Thurmont Lions Club Teacher of the Year Award. Anyone can nominate a teacher: parents, students, fellow teachers, and administrators.

This award is open to pre-k through grade 12, full-time teachers, in the Catoctin feeder school system: Catoctin High, Thurmont Middle, Thurmont Elementary, Thurmont Primary, Lewistown Elementary, Sabillasville Elementary, and Mother Seton. 

All nominations will be recognized at a reception to be held on April 2, 2019, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Thurmont Regional Library. The Teacher of the Year for each school will be announced at the reception. The overall Teacher of the Year will be announced at the Thurmont Lions Club’s Education Night held in May 2019.

Nomination forms are available at and at the principal’s office at each school. Nomination forms are due no later than March 15, 2019.

If you have any questions, please contact Lion Susan Favorite at  or 240-409-1747 or Lion Joyce Anthony at or 240-288-8748.

Theresa Dardanell

Each year, Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) recognizes students who demonstrate the leadership qualities of Dr. King during the annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration in January. Students who earned the award demonstrated positive leadership qualities and exhibited the “Character Counts Pillars”: responsibility, caring, fairness, trustworthiness, citizenship, and respect. One outstanding student from each public school was chosen. The quotes below are from the nominations submitted by the staff at each school in the Catoctin feeder area.

Catoctin High School — Julia Ellenberg

“Julia has been an academic, athletic, and character leader at Catoctin High School. Julia is a member of multiple honor societies and a team captain on the swim team for Catoctin High School. Julia is looked at by her peers and her teachers as a steady and forthright young adult, who has helped lead our school through difficult circumstances. Julia’s work ethic in her academic classes is beyond compare, as she is planning on becoming a biomedical engineer; yet, she refers to her time as a student working in the Catoctin unified sports class as her most rewarding experience in high school.”

Thurmont Middle School — Thomas Bower

“Thomas is new to Thurmont Middle School (TMS) this year, and we are so lucky to have him. During his time at TMS, Thomas consistently demonstrates all of the characteristics for which this award stands. Besides his clear sense of responsibility and curiosity for learning, Thomas is friendly and always polite to others, no matter who they are. He always has a smile and seeks out ways in which he can help his peers. Thomas is an individual who I believe Dr. King would want to celebrate and promote.”

Thurmont Elementary School — Carolyn Mercer

“Thurmont Elementary School proudly nominates Carolyn Mercer for the Martin Luther King Jr. Award. Not only does she exhibit all of the qualities of ROAR (Respect, Ownership, Academics, Responsibility) in the classroom, but outside of school as well. She offers help without even being asked, and always has a smile on her face. Carolyn assists classmates by walking them to school, and in the community she folds laundry for a disabled elderly neighbor. We are so proud to have Carolyn representing Thurmont Elementary School.”

Thurmont Primary School — Ethan Tokar

“Ethan is one of the most helpful, kind, and genuine students at Thurmont Primary School (TPS).  When a new student arrived in his classroom, he offered to share materials, to sit with the student, and to be his partner during sharing time. He offers to help his teachers and other staff at dismissal, and he greets everyone with a smile! A representative group of teachers agreed that Ethan Tokar was a great representative of TPS for the MLK celebration!”

Emmitsburg Elementary School — Lillian Grable

“When we think of a student who is fair, celebrates others, and hopes to build a better future, we think of Lily! She mentors other students, helps with morning announcements, and is a gymnastics team leader. We are proud of her demonstration of kindness, and we enjoy watching her learn, grow, and inspire others.”

Lewistown Elementary School — Rachel Herbst

“Rachel has been involved in many roles while at Lewistown Elementary School. She has been a Peer Ambassador for two years and also a morning announcer. Rachel is a role model to all of her classmates. Rachel is always very respectful and polite to adults and peers. She has integrity and strives to do the right thing, even when no one is looking. She is engaged in learning in the classroom. She is always actively participating in class discussions. Rachel also perseveres and does her very best with any academic task. Her completed work is an example of what is expected as exceeding the expectations. Rachel is trustworthy and can always be counted on to be honest about any situation.”

Sabillasville Elementary School — Faith Harty

“Faith Harty shows many of the same qualities as Martin Luther King Jr. She is very caring towards her classmates and is always willing to help students and teachers as needed. She shows trustworthiness, as she often helps put away the computers or help around the room. She willingly helps other teachers, too! Faith is responsible and always works hard and does her best. Faith truly wants to learn. She shows other students the Sabillasville Elementary School way; she conducts herself in a safe manner, being careful not to cause harm to anyone else, she is engaged in learning, and is self-motivated to strive to do her best. She is an excellent representative for Sabillasville for the Martin Luther King Award.

The Thurmont Middle School (TMS) Show Choir is entering its competition season. The performing arts group has performed at the TMS Winter Concert and practices weekly to prepare for a very large chorus and show choir competition in Midlothian, Virginia. The Koste Classic (mid-March) invites middle and high schools from the Atlantic region to compete, bringing along their own musicians and choreography teams.

TMS Show Choir is directed by music and theatre arts director Berna LaForce. LaForce has a reputation as one of the best middle school directors in this part of the country. TMS Show Choir will also compete in early May at Music in the Parks in Hershey, Pennsylvania. They plan to perform again at the TMS Spring Concert on May 7, 2019, at 6:30 p.m. in the TMS auditorium (open to the public).

TMS Show Choir is supported as a school club by donations, membership fees, and fundraisers. If you’d like to donate to the program and keep the performing arts alive for our middle school youth, please mail your donation to TMS Show Choir, 408 E. Main Street, Thurmont, MD 21788.

Thurmont Middle School Show Choir (from left): (front row) Erin Miller, Abby Moreland, Emma Stream, Richie Coursey, Aubrey Summerall, Daniel Martin, Colette Hartman, Lilyann Welty, Caitlin Werlang; (middle row) Kylie Perhach, Kaysalee Romero, Madelyn Greco, McKenna Gisriel, Zeke Frei, Dustin Zimmerman, George Hawkins, Nathaneal Hahn, Kacey Perhach, Jazmyn Weedon, Ariana Onley; (back row) Morgan Ridenour, Emily Burrier, Abigail May, Hailey Dawson, Colin Byrne, Alex Contreras, Patrick Dugan, Faith Bentz, Sophia Daly, Alison Brawner, Natalie Hoyt. Not Pictured: Mason Healy and Hunter Hurley.

Frederick County Public Schools is asking parents to complete a perceptual survey about their children’s schools. “Helping students work to their potential is a collaborative effort involving parents, students, schools, and the community. FCPS values and appreciates feedback from parents and guardians. We use that feedback in tangible ways to improve schools and provide every student an excellent education,” said Superintendent Dr. Terry Alban. “We ask every FCPS family to help our schools by sharing their feedback.”

Launched January 24 and extending through Friday, February 22, the survey is online, and each school is providing parents a letter with a school-specific link for taking the survey. Schools also have paper copies in English and Spanish. Parents with questions should contact their child’s school.

Responses are anonymous; each school will receive the feedback submitted but will not know who submitted it.   Simultaneously, FCPS is surveying teachers and other employees to learn their satisfaction levels with school climate and other aspects of employment with the school system. A random sample of students in grades 3-12 will participate in a student version. Visit for more information.

“I’ll color this blue.” Sadie Grubby, a pre-K student at Mother Seton School (MSS), points to the corner of a drawing of the U.S. flag. She turns to her Prayer Partner, fourth-grader Olivia Jaeger, and asks her to help color in the red stripes. “So it looks pretty for the soldiers.”

Sadie and Olivia, along with their classmates, each colored cards to be sent to U.S. troops serving away from home this holiday season. The activity was part of the schoolwide service project for November to participate in Operation Gratitude, a non-profit organization that facilitates letters and care packages between citizens and military and first responders. Students came together to create and color cards for the troops. They included in the cards their greetings, as well as their appreciation for our military’s service. “My parents are Veterans,” Beckett Tayler, an eight-grader, said. “I know it’s hard to be away from your family, especially at Christmas. We want to thank [the troops] for their sacrifice.” Over 240 letters were sent through Operation Gratitude for the troops.

The Letters to Troops project was the second service project Mother Seton School students have participated in this year, which has been christened the “Year of Service: Created for Good Works” by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. In October, the school set a goal of creating 100 Jared Boxes as part of The Jared Box Project. Through donations from students and their families, the goal was met and 100 Jared Boxes, which contained items for play and creativity meant for hospitalized children, were delivered to Carroll County Health Center, Waynesboro Hospital, Frederick Memorial, and Gettysburg Hospital.

MSS, whose stated mission includes inspiring “students to…dedicate their lives to love and serve Christ in the tradition of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Vincent de Paul,” has always put outreach and service to others at the core of their community. “The Love of Jesus Guides Us” is not only the school’s own theme for this year, it is the principle by which the administration, staff, faculty, and students are led. “As a Christ-centered community, we truly believe it is our responsibility to not only provide strong and challenging academics, but to form our students to seek the good and serve others,” said Sister Brenda Monahan, D.C., principal of Mother Seton School.

Though December is a short month due to the Christmas break, that didn’t stop students from continuing their outreach efforts. December’s service project was to collect items for homeless students in Frederick Country as part of the Student Homelessness Initiative Project (SHIP) Homeless for the Holidays initiative. Students collected full-size personal care items through January 4, 2019. The project fittingly closed on the Feast of Elizabeth Ann Seton, our foundress and patron saint.

Other monthly service projects are in the works for the rest of the school year, but giving to others and serving those in need have always been an integral part of the MSS school community and will continue to be important. “Mother Seton School students have always given generously to projects such as our commitment to the Catoctin Pregnancy Center, missions in Africa and the Ukraine, and other local charities,” said Sister Brenda. “Serving others is at the heart of our school culture. Our students’ joy in giving meets the needs of others and helps foster the Gospel maxim of living by The Golden Rule.”

To see how you can help students with their outreach efforts, visit or call 301-447-3161.

As part of a monthly schoolwide service project, Mother Seton School eighth-graders Mackenzie Orndorff and Layla Metts deliver Jared Boxes to Carroll Hospital Center Emergency Department. Krista Johnson, Quality and RN Stroke Coordinator, accepted on behalf of the hospital.

The strong bond between Mount St. Mary’s and the Daughters of Charity has endured for over two centuries, ever since the foundress of the order, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, resided at The Mount and taught local children in the adjoining Grotto. It’s only natural that the relationship should extend to Mother Seton School (MSS), a sponsored work of the Daughters and direct descendant of the first Catholic elementary school founded in the United States in 1810 by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. The thriving partnership between America’s second oldest Catholic university and the oldest Catholic elementary school was recently highlighted through the donation of ten laptops, which had been converted to Chromebooks, to Mother Seton School’s technology program.

Working with Professor Athar Rafiq, students majoring in computer science, cybersecurity, and math completed a service learning project to retrofit electronically and physically clean and test the laptop computers, which had been replaced after being in use at the Mount for three years. The Mount students who devoted the most effort to this initiative are Chandler Bankos, Vu Do, Eric Fierro, Christian Hill, Danny Stanley, J’Dan Vaughn, and Sergio Villafane.

“We are grateful to Dr. Rafiq and his students for providing us these tools,” said Sister Brenda Monahan, D.C., principal of Mother Seton School. “They help move us toward our goal of providing 1:1 computing devices to our students for use in small group instruction and STEM experiences.”

Not only do Mount students receive valuable technical and, more importantly, service-oriented learning experience, but MSS students and teachers benefit in their teaching and learning initiatives from these laptops, which the Mount students converted to Chromebooks. The sustainability initiative also avoids the cost of piling these laptops in landfills, which complements the Green School status of MSS.

Theresa Dardanell

Two hundred and seventy-eight students at Thurmont Elementary School joined people from all over the world for the 7th Annual WorldWide Dance for Kindness. Groups in over 120 cities around the globe all perform the same dance to the same song on the same day to unite the world with kindness. This event is sponsored by Life Vest Inside, with the purpose of looking beyond ourselves to realize that we are “all citizens of the world and that kindness is the common thread that unites us all.” 

Before the dance began, Principal Debra O’Donnell told the students that they do this dance to remind them, “how important it is to be kind and it starts with you.”

Students Tristan Lease, Tyler McCallion, Dary Carson, and Claire Daly enthusiastically agreed that the dance brings people together and helps to spread kindness throughout the world.

Guidance Counselor Tammy Brotman said, “Kindness starts with one kind word, one kind act, one person at a time.” She shared this story with me: “This past week, I asked my students if they knew anyone who was a champion, fully expecting them to mention famous sports players. One boy mentioned a girl in his class from last year. He said she was a champion because she wrote kind notes to everyone in his class all year long. He still has his at home in a special box. When I told her that others were saying she was a champion, her response was “I had no idea.” Sometimes we don’t know the impact that sending the message of kindness is having, but it warmed my heart to know that it’s happening and students are taking note.”

Thurmont Elementary School students perform the Kindness Dance.

Photo by Theresa Dardanell

The Catoctin High School (CHS) 2018 homecoming activities were held on Friday, October 5, 2018, before and during the Cougar’s varsity football game against Rising Sun, which the Cougars won 33-13. Before the game, a Homecoming parade was held for the first time in several years and featured Cougar students infused with school spirit.

The half-time Homecoming ceremony began with introductions of the Catoctin High School Administrative Team and Athletic Directors: Assistant Principals, Jason Lininger and Mary Jacques; Principal Bernie Quesada; Athletic Director, Keith Bruck; and Assistant Athletic Director Kim Flabbi.

Catoctin High School’s first Homecoming Queen (Fall 1971) Mary Ann Rice Clever crowned the 2018 senior king and queen, Logan Rickerd and Sydney Zentz (pictured above).

Mary Ann traveled from Georgia to attend the ceremony to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the opening of Catoctin High School.

The underclass princes and princesses were: Freshman Prince—Logan Simanski, Freshman Princess—Danielle Baker; Sophomore Prince—Bronson Snurr, Sophomore Princess—Alexia Healey; Junior Prince—Owen Bubczyk, Junior Princess—Maddie Williams.

The Senior Homecoming Court nominees were: Pablo Archila, Mark Rogers, Isabel Stydinger, Hannah Hartness, Chase Wilhelm, Caroline Michael, Hunter Grimes, and Hannah Boone.

CHS 50th Anniversary activities continue throughout the year, with acknowledgements during each sport’s senior nights and commemorative t-shirts and sweatshirts available for purchase.

If you are interested in purchasing t-shirts or sweatshirts, please contact Kathy Herrmann at or 240-409-9434.

Catoctin High School’s Marching Band performs during halftime.

Photos by Deb Abraham Spalding

Theresa Dardanell

See someone alone. Reach out and help. Start With Hello! In September, Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) participated in the third annual Sandy Hook Promise Start With Hello Week. This national anti-violence campaign encourages students to reduce social isolation with acts of kindness that starts with just saying hello. Schools created activities to promote a welcoming and inclusive place for all students.

Catoctin High School

Catoctin High School (CHS) students started the week by decorating outside the cafeteria with slogans to promote the Sandy Hook Promise Campaign. On “Hey Day Thursday,” students and staff were given name tags and the challenge was to greet new people. Representatives from the Mental Health Association distributed information, and students were given the opportunity to sign up for the Out of the Darkness Walk. A team will represent CHS during this walk at Baker Park. On “Green Out Friday,” students and staff wore green in support of the campaign, and a group picture was taken of students spelling out “Hello” on the baseball field. School Social Worker Debbie Wivell said, “It was wonderful to see many students and staff participate in the Hey Day. This early in the year, teachers and students are still getting to know each other and this is important. Green Out day was also a success.”

Thurmont Middle School

Students at Thurmont Middle School (TMS) had lots of opportunities to connect with each other. On “Hey Day Monday,” they started by saying hello to new people. The challenge on Tuesday was to make sure no one sat alone at lunch. TMS student Charlotte Bradley said, “I really liked the lunch activity of not sitting alone, where we sat with students based on our interests. The lunch activity seemed to really encourage inclusiveness and connectedness with students that we don’t normally talk to.” School Counselors Becky Krauss and Sherry Bueso agreed that Wednesday’s activity was also very successful. They said, “We are thinking that the positive post-it-notes were the most successful because most of our students participated in their classes. Students left positive, encouraging messages on their desks to be received by the next student sitting there.” The challenge on Friday was to perform a random act of kindness for a teacher or student. Principal Daniel Enck said, “The various activities that our students, staff, and community members participated in throughout the week helped bring our school community closer together. Additionally, the activities allowed students to see the benefits of reaching out to other students who they may not typically interact with. I can’t thank our students, staff, and community members enough for all of their efforts in making Start with Hello week such a success.”

Thurmont Elementary School

Students at Thurmont Elementary School especially enjoyed having community members greet them in the mornings during the week.  Special guests included directors from the FCPS central office; Mayor John Kinnaird; Keyote, the Frederick Keys mascot; athletes and cheerleaders from Catoctin High School; members of the Thurmont Police Department; Boy Scout Leaders; and employees of the local Kountry Kitchen restaurant. Activities during the week were geared toward making all students feel welcome. They had daily ice breakers during lunch and courtesy lessons on how to introduce yourself to a new person. Darby Carson said, “It helps people and makes them feel like they matter. I think we should keep doing it and let that legacy live on.” Claire Daly said, “It is helpful for those kids who don’t have a lot of friends. They won’t be so lonely.” Tyler McCallion said, “Once you get to know people more, you realize you could be really good friends.” Shalina Weitzel said, “Start With Hello Week makes us feel inspired to help other kids.” School Counselor Tammy Brotman said, “I think this is a really important message to give our students.  Having Start with Hello Week gives students both the opportunity but most of all the courage to try reaching out to others.  We are trying to build a culture of kindness, and this is a great way to continue to support that goal and really make it a genuine part of what we’re about at TES.”

Sabillasville Elementary School

Sabillasville Elementary School (SES) students started the week with one important word: Hello. On Tuesday, they wore clothing that displayed something about themselves so that they could learn about each other. School Counselor Niki Kayser said, “The students and staff really enjoyed sharing why they chose the shirt they did. It encouraged them to learn a little more about their peers’ interests.” Students performed random acts of kindness on Wednesday and participated in special activities on Thursday and Friday.  Kayser said that she received positive feedback from staff and students and heard the comment, “It’s important to be kind all the time!” many times during the week. She also said, “I feel this message is wonderful! It’s a simple way to help create a more connected and inclusive school community. This message reminds us to encourage and support one another on a daily basis, and to understand how important it is to help students learn how to be accepting of others and to see that all it takes to make a difference is just a few simple words.”

Emmitsburg Elementary School

Emmitsburg Elementary School (EES) will be incorporating the idea of friendship throughout the school year to support the Leader In Me Positive Behavior Intervention System. Activities for the week included wearing green on Monday, signing a school banner on Tuesday, breakfast buddies on Wednesday, sharing stickers on Thursday, and making posters on Friendship Friday. School Counselor Sarah Fawley said, “The students really enjoyed working with other students in making their posters. They enjoyed the morning greeters in the front lobby, who greeted students with ‘hello’ and passed out stickers and pencils.” She said that students were more aware of others; they invited other students to sit with them at lunch.

Fawley also said, “This message is very important. There is so much power in five little letters (Hello) that can impact someone’s day or life forever.”

Starting the Day by saying “Hello” at Thurmont Elementary School: Dr. Keith Harris, FCPS executive director of Accelerating Achievement & Equity; Debra O’Donnell, TES principal; students, Adania Kreitz, Darby Carson, Carolyn Mercer, Claire Daly, Tyler McCallion, Chase Jackson, Summer Bostic, Tristan Lease, Shalini Weitzel, Warren Schafer; and Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird.

Photo by Theresa Dardanell

On Tuesday, August 21, 2018, students in the Catoctin feeder district went “shopping” for free school supplies, thanks to generous donations from local churches, organizations, and the Stuff the Bus school supply drive. A total of 206 students, along with their families, gathered at Graceham Moravian Church in Thurmont for the annual Catoctin Community School Supply Program.

After selecting a brand new backpack, students went to the “store,” where they found hundreds of supplies, including folders and notebooks in nine different colors, stacks of binders and notebook paper, crayons, pens, pencils, rulers and more. Also, every student received a pair of headphones; middle and high school students were given USB drives.

Jen and Laura Harbaugh have been coordinating this event for ten years. They were joined this year by volunteers from Graceham Moravian Church, Harriet Chapel, CASS, and students in the Lewistown 4-H Club.

The Emmitsburg High School’s 94th Annual Alumni Banquet will be held on Saturday, October 20, 2018. All graduates of Emmitsburg High School, and all who attended the school at some time, are invited. Alumni are asked to seek out classmates and encourage them to attend. Graduation is not a requirement. Teachers of the Emmitsburg School are also invited.

The event will be held at the Emmitsburg Ambulance Center, located at 17701 Creamery Road in Emmitsburg. Social hour will begin at 4:00 p.m., followed by dinner at 5:30 p.m. The cost for the dinner is $25.00.

Anyone who has not received an invitation and would like to attend may call Sam Valentine at 301-447-2507 or email

Theresa Dardanell

After a first place win at the Frederick County Envirothon competition, the Catoctin High School (CHS) team placed sixth (out of seventeen teams) at the state competition in June at the Maryland 4-H Environmental Education and Camping Center in Garrett County.  In the Wildlife competition, they were awarded second place.

The members of the CHS team, named The Primary Successors, were Zack Carter, Samantha Grimes, Edison Hatter, Jimmy Kempisty, and Devin Shorb. With the help of advisors April Wells and Ron Albaugh, the five seniors (now graduates) prepared for the competition that included tests in five areas: aquatics, forestry, soil, wildlife, and a fifth topic that changes every year (this year, it was rangeland management).

The students met not only during school hours but also on their own time to learn as much as possible about each topic. Preparation included absorbing information from books, diagrams, field guides, and websites, as well as hands-on training. When I met with the students during one of their practice sessions at the school, they were preparing for the aquatics test by identifying various fish. They know and rely on each other’s strengths during testing. Wells said that they each take one part of the exam and then work together to finalize their answers. It was obvious that they work well together as a team and that they have fun at the same time.

Pictured from left are Edison Hatter, Devin Shorb, Samantha Grimes, Jimmy Kempisty, and Zach Carter.