Currently viewing the tag: "Frederick County Public Schools"

In March 2022, the Catoctin High School (CHS) Mock Trial team closed out a fantastic undefeated season, winning the Frederick County Mock Trial championship and ending the season as quarter finalists in the state tournament.

Mock Trial is an academic competition where teams of high school students from different schools undertake the roles of legal teams and witnesses. Different students act as witnesses and attorneys to argue their side’s case in front of a real attorney. It is a mix of debate and theater.

Coach Stephen Cree said, “The kids had the first undefeated season in the last 25 years for CHS. They deserve recognition.”

Congratulations for the hard work and dedication of the team, their success shines a light on a rather unknown but incredibly interesting academic competition in Frederick County Public Schools.

This championship photo was taken directly after the CHS Mock Trial Team won the CMC championship match: (from left) Julia Wivell, Audrey Sare, Caleigh Sare, Brad Hofmann, Sean Whitworth, Nick Miller, Justin Clair, coach Stephen Cree, and Mia Ferraro.

James Rada Jr.

Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Theresa Alban made a conditional recommendation to the Board of Education to conditionally grant the Sabillasville Environmental School charter. If approved, it is expected that Sabillasville Elementary would become a K-8 charter school with a focus on environmental science.

“It’s a beautiful location,” Alban noted. It is also well suited to be a school with a focus on agriculture.

Alban presented her recommendation to the board on August 18 during the board’s regular monthly meeting. The board will make a final decision on September 8.

Alban told the board, “The reservations with this application mostly relate to the fiscal constraints.” The phrase “tight budget” was used repeatedly by Alban, board members, and Board Chief Financial Officer Leslie Pelligrino.

Board Member Brad Young said, “Frederick County is an extremely supportive county of our agricultural community, and I have no doubt many will step up and want to help fund it, even if it will be an initial endowment that’s put there.”

The citizen’s committee that put together the charter is also planning on applying for grants and run a fundraising campaign to help create more of a cushion in the finances.

The three-year charter plan calls for additional grades to be phased in, beginning with the 2022-2023 school year: adding sixth grade in year one, seventh grade in year two, and eighth grade in year three. The student:teacher ratio would be 23:1. This means that the enrollment the first year needs to be 161 students to make the proposed budget work. While Alban noted that 161 is a low number for a charter school to be viable, it is more than double the current enrollment, even accounting for the addition of a sixth grade.

Because of this, Alban made her recommendation conditional on having some sort of verification that the new school could reach its enrollment goal by December 1 of this year. The verification would most likely be letters of intent from the families who wish to send their children to an environmental school. Alban noted that while this seems a short deadline, staffing decisions have to be made in December to be sent to principals in January.

“We are excited about the conditional recommendation, and we hope that we can work together to resolve both parties’ concerns in order to create a unique educational opportunity for students across the county,” Alisha Yocum, president of Sabillasville Elementary’s Parent Teacher Organization, told the board.

Families in Sabillasville have been fighting for years to keep the school open as enrollment has continued to fall. However, the charter group believes that if they create something different from other schools in the county that addresses a need from the largest industry in the county, the students will want to attend.

If the charter is approved, it will also be conditional on finding an appropriate location for the new school. While the goal is to have the Sabillasville Environmental School in the current Sabillasville Elementary, the board will have to not only vote to close the school but work out a lease agreement with the new school.

In an effort to encourage community support for this final vote, Yocum posted on Facebook, “I know it has been a long fight, but we are almost there! Please come out to the BOE Meeting for a final decision on our charter school efforts. We need to fill the board room!!”

Recipients Selected in Eight Categories

Eight Frederick County Public Schools support employees have been recognized in the 2021 Support Employees of the Year Award program.

They are: School-based Custodian of the Year Michael Bowles, Linganore High; Central Office Business Support Employee of the Year Jeremy Eccard, Public Affairs; School-based Food Service Employee of the Year Barbara Hoy, Rock Creek School; Central Office Secretary of the Year Orissa Linker, Central Office Reception; School-based Special Education Instructional Assistant of the Year Crystal McKenzie, Thurmont Middle; Central Office Maintenance Employee of the Year Aaron Shorb, Maintenance & Operations; Bus Driver of the Year Carolyn Shultz, Oakdale feeder; and School-based Secretary of the Year Lori Zentz, Catoctin High.

From this list of eight, one school-based and one central office Support Employee of the Year will be announced at the June 9 Board of Education meeting when the entire group is honored. The two overall winners will each receive a cash award, a personal day off, a special trophy, and a Board of Education pin. All category winners will receive trophies and certificates.

Starting Monday, August 31, Frederick County Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services will provide “to-go” breakfast and lunch at 26 schools under the National School Breakfast Program (NSBP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Meals will be provided based on a student’s eligibility. Students eligible for free meals will receive meals at no cost. Students eligible for reduced price meals will be required to pay the reduced price to receive meals. Students not eligible for free or reduced price meals will pay full price for their meals. Meals will be available to all children enrolled in a FCPS school.

Meal Service Schedule (11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.): Mondays—“to-go” breakfasts and lunches will be provided for Monday and Tuesday; Tuesdays—kitchens are closed; Wednesdays—“to-go” breakfasts and lunches will be provided for Wednesday and Thursday; Thursdays—kitchens are closed; Fridays—“to-go” breakfasts and lunches will be provided for Friday.

Meals will NOT be provided on Labor Day, Monday, September 7. Kitchens will be open on Tuesday, September 8 to provide “to-go” breakfast and lunch for Tuesday.

In Northern Frederick County, meals will be available at Emmitsburg Elementary and Thurmont Middle.

It is not necessary for children to be present for a parent or guardian to obtain meals for them; however, a student ID number must be presented for each student.

Community members are reminded to follow social distancing and face covering guidelines when picking up meals.

Please visit for more details. For additional information, please call 301-644-5061.

Each year, all Frederick County Public Schools select a student representative to be honored at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. The student is nominated for embodying the characteristics of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year, Thurmont Primary School is proud to recognize second-grade student, Evan Laird (pictured right), as its award recipient.

Evan comes to school each and every day ready to build his brain, heart, and body power. He works hard in all that he does. If there is something he doesn’t understand, he asks questions to make sure he is meeting the learning targets. Evan is extremely thoughtful and includes others in games and activities throughout the day and at recess. He is responsible with completing his work and making sure he is putting forth his best effort with all his assignments. He consistently uses his manners with adults throughout the building. Evan easily exhibits all the pillars of good character and leadership qualities that are characteristic of Dr. King.

Thurmont Primary School honored and celebrated Evan, alongside all other FCPS nominees, at a celebration on Thursday, January 9, 2020, at TJ High School.

Good teachers are not hard to come by. The profession by trade is dedication of time and energy into shaping the future and guiding youth to be healthy and educated adults. Jessica Valentine Derr’s efforts for Frederick County Schools have not gone unnoticed. Valentine Derr was awarded the Simon A. McNeely Award for her outstanding contributions to health education for Frederick County Public Schools.

Valentine Derr has spent years developing an opioid prevention program and creating consistent and uniform curriculum content for health education for schools across Frederick County. She hopes to launch her opioid program in the coming year.

Simon A. McNeely Award winners must demonstrate teaching excellence in health or physical education, innovations in health or physical education, be actively involved in school and community affairs, and much more. Frederick County Public Schools are lucky to have such a dedicated professional.

Jessica Valentine Derr receives the Simon A. McNeely Award.

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.

The Fuse Teen Center isn’t actually a “center.” It will be a transient teen center,  comprised of a group of parents and concerned citizens hoping to provide activities for teens in the Thurmont area. Fuse is based on Christian principles; however, it is not affiliated with any particular church.

The founder of Fuse, Susan Crone, had been long considering how to provide a group for teens. As a response to several events in which teens were lost to suicide or overdose, Susan decided it was time to step out in faith. In February of this year, a group was formed, a core group of members were identified, and a mission statement was accepted by the core. The group originally called themselves “Abandon,” but after a reorganization of the core, Fuse was born.

Crone has been a teacher in Frederick County Public Schools for thirty years. “I have worked with many students touched by the death of a friend or a loved one who is struggling with depression or addiction. The number of my actual students who have died is so sad to me. I have to do something. I can’t just sit by anymore and let ‘no’ be the answer anymore. If Fuse fails, we lose nothing but our time. But if we do nothing, we fail for sure—and the cost is our teens. Someone has to do something, so I’m doing it,” stated Crone.

Other members of the Fuse team include Buddy Summers, Carly Crone (high school teen rep.), Liz Yingling, Emily Little, Thomas Treat (middle school teen rep.), Bryan Riffle, Rachel Hubbard, the members of RJ’s Lasting Strength Foundation, Doug Mongold, and many others.

The goal of Fuse is to build relationships—relationships between teens, relationships between teens and adults. So many relationships today are made and maintained over social media. Fuse hopes to give teens the opportunity to meet face-to-face in a positive envirnoment.

Fuse hosted its first event on May 5, 2018: a Cinco de Mayo-themed evening of games, talking, and tacos. Taco Bell and Food Lion provided donations for a spectacular buffet. A visit from “Tessa” the guinea pig made the evening complete. Fuse welcomed eighteen teens, thirteen volunteers, and another ten adults who came along for the ride. The event was held at Trinity United Church of Christ in Thurmont. Fuse extends its gratitude to the church for its willingness to take a chance on the group.

Fuse’s second event was a “School’s Out” picnic, held at Thurmont Community Park on Saturday, June 16, 2018. Fuse greeted the start of summer vacation with twelve teens and nine volunteers, along with many adults who stopped in to see how things were going.

The biggest undertaking for Fuse has been the negotiation with Trinity United Church of Christ in Thurmont to offer a “coffee house,” meeting twice a week through the summer, from 6:00-8:30 p.m.—one night for middle school teens and one night for high school teens. Two rooms of the church will be used to allow teens to gather for food, fun, and “Fuse-ing!” All teens are welcome.

Fuse Teen Center has joined RJ’s Lasting Foundation. RJ’s Lasting Strength Foundation, Inc” is a 501c(3) non-profit whose mission is to combat the heroin epidemic in Frederick County by spreading awareness and educating the community on the disease of addiction and overdose deaths. Fuse Teen Center activities fit in with its prevention goals. Fuse has also partnered with the Thurmont Addictions Commission under its prevention pillar, which is chaired by Mike Randall. These partnerships will allow Fuse to be visible to more people.

Fuse does not have funding. At this point, it is operating on the generosity of places like Food Lion, Taco Bell, Mountain Gate Restuarant, Shuff’s Meat Market, and friends and family. Donations of snack items are greatly appreciated. Monetary donations would also be appreciated and can be made out to RJ’s Lasting Strength Foundation – Fuse Teen Center. Monetary donations will be used to fund items that teens at the center request. Currently, teens have requested a projector to show movies and games on the wall, and a bowling game!

For this venture to prosper, Fuse is eager to have volunteers who are willing to commit to at least one night this summer. If someone would like to volunteer or donate, please contact Susan Crone at 301-676-1183, at , or at

The Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) Food and Nutrition Services Department is participating in the United States Department of Agriculture Summer Food Service Program to provide free breakfast and lunch at some local schools.

The Summer Program that will be in operation at Thurmont Elementary, located at 805 E. Main Street in Thurmont, is available to all children the age of eighteen years and under.

The children do not have to be a student at the school to participate and do not need to be accompanied by a parent.

Please enter the side of the school through the cafeteria doors.

Free meals will be provided Mondays through Thursdays, through August 16, with breakfast from 9:00-9:30 a.m., and lunch from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Frederick County Public Schools received the news that Catoctin High School is named a National School of Character. The nonprofit evaluates character initiatives in schools and communities around the world. Catoctin is the only Maryland high school on the 2018 list of four schools statewide and seventy-three schools making the list nationwide.

The recognition was announced at the May 18 conference of the New Jersey Alliance for Social, Emotional, and Character Development at Rider University. Each year, and its state affiliates certify schools that demonstrate a dedicated focus on character development, with a positive impact on academic achievement, student behavior, school climate, and their communities. To qualify for national consideration, Catoctin High was already declared a Maryland School of Character, a distinction it has earned each of the past five years. will honor Catoctin High School and other National Schools of Character at its 25th National Forum on Character in Washington, D.C., October 4-7, 2018.

Lewistown United Methodist Church

by Theresa Dardanell

For the members of the Lewistown United Methodist Church (LUMC), community outreach means more than supporting the needs in the immediate Lewistown area; their contributions reach all around the world. Several committees and groups work together for the benefit of the church, the local community, and the world.

The Community Outreach Committee is responsible for coordinating donations to support local needs. The church supports the Thurmont Food Bank, and the committee makes it fun by having a different theme each month. The theme for February was “Souper Bowl,” so lots of soup and noodles were donated. Of course, for St. Patrick’s Day in March, the theme is “Green,” so cans of peas and other green foods will be in the donation bins.

Donations of clothing are collected several times a year for the homeless. Lewistown Elementary School is also a beneficiary of their generosity. Principal Dana Austin said, “The Lewistown United Methodist Church has been a dedicated community partner with Lewistown Elementary for many years. On an annual basis, they have provided lunches for the pyramid summer school program, hosted a back to school lunch for staff, and donated school supplies and food for evening events. Recently, the church began supporting our weekend food program for needy families. They not only provided volunteers to bag the food, but also donated $500 for nonperishable food. Their service is a testament to their commitment to those in need, along with their commendable support of Frederick County Public Schools. TeamLES appreciates all that they do!”

The Missions Committee reaches a greater range of people who need assistance. At Christmas, they partnered with the Salvation Army to provide gifts for three families. In the winter, they partner with The Society of St. Andrew to help end hunger in the community with the Potato Drop. Forty thousand pounds of potatoes are donated by the agricultural community and distributed to food banks and churches for distribution. LUMC members help pack the potatoes in ten-pound bags at the Smithsburg distribution center and bring them back to be given to families in need.  The church also reaches out to several international organizations to provide assistance. Operation Christmas Child provides gift boxes to children in need around the world. LUMC volunteers packed and sent approximately thirty-two shoe boxes with toys, clothing, and personal care items. The children of the congregation collected money for the Heifer Project, and chose fish fingerlings to be given to a family in another country. Along with the fish, the family receives training in fish farming, so they can become self-reliant. They helped to fulfill the old saying, “Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.”

The United Methodist Women’s Group is responsible for social events and fundraising. They provide the lunch for the teachers at Lewistown Elementary, and treat the senior citizens of the community to a special dinner once a year. They coordinate the twice yearly pot pie dinner, which is the biggest fundraiser for the church; they are famous for their “Slippery Pot Pie,” which is made with homemade noodles instead of a top crust. Although the dinners are organized by the Women’s group, everyone in the church is involved in some way. Preparing to serve about six hundred dinners is a monumental task that begins before the actual day of the event. There are potatoes to peel, cole slaw to be made, desserts to be prepared, and, most important, chicken to cook. Then, there is the “chicken pickin,” which, of course, is when the meat is picked off the bones before it can be made into pot pie. On the day of the dinner, cooking begins about 5:00 a.m., and the work does not end until the cleaning is done, about 6:00 p.m. The volunteers consider this fundraiser  a “FUNraiser with camaraderie, fellowship, teamwork, and outreach/service to the community.” Mark your calendars for the March 21st  Slippery Pot Pie dinner. It will be held from noon-5:30 p.m. You can enjoy the all-you-can-eat family style meal at the church hall; takeout is also an option.

The Children’s Ministry Committee combines education and fun for the children. Along with Sunday School during the 9:00 a.m. service and vacation Bible school during the summer, there are many activities held throughout the year. On Scouting Sunday in February, all scouts are invited to wear their uniforms to church and participate in the service. The Easter activity includes an Easter egg hunt, egg coloring, crafts, games, and lunch.  “Trunk or treat” is an interesting alternative to “Trick or Treat” in October. Families gather together outside with their open car trunks, decorated for the season. The children go from one car to another, gathering the treats that are inside the car trunks and then enjoy games and activities together.

Social activities are not limited to the children. Families enjoy the summer church picnic, the annual Christmas party, and a Frederick Keys baseball game. Everyone I met agreed with the sentiment of one of the members, who said, “Anybody who wants to come is welcome to join our family. We love and care about each other.”

Pastor Linda Warehime leads the weekly 9:00 a.m. Sunday service.  Joyful news and prayer concerns are shared with the congregation, the choir leads everyone in song, and everyone is welcome to participate in Holy Communion.

New members are always welcome to join. The church is located at 11032 Hessong Bridge Road in Thurmont. For more information, call 301-898-7888 or e-mail Find them on Facebook at: Lewistown United Methodist Church – Thurmont.

Pastor Linda Warehime and several members of the Lewistown United Methodist Church on “Scouting Sunday.”

Photo by Theresa Dardanell

The YMCA is launching a new initiative, in partnership with the Frederick County Government, through the Office for Children and Families and the Frederick County Public Schools.

This grant will provide funding to the YMCA that supports daily activities that will include the following: sports and recreation; tutoring and academic enrichment; arts and humanities; readiness training for college and careers; and service learning and community service.

Research indicates that students that are actively involved and engaged in structured “out-of-school” programs demonstrate an improvement in their academic accomplishments, and social and behavioral outcomes, compared to students who do not participate in enrichment activities. The YMCA has also partnered with Goodwill Industries of Monocacy Valley and New Spire Arts to create a comprehensive program that will also include weekly off-site field trips.

The S.T.A.R.S. program will be hosted at three locations, serving students from the following five Middle Schools: Thurmont, West Frederick Middle School, Crestwood Middle School, Governor Thomas Johnson Middle School, and Monocacy Middle School. The goal will be to serve a minimum of thirty students from each location and to ultimately create a solid program base of participants that will support a stand-alone program at each campus.  The first year, the YMCA will plan to transport Crestwood students and Monocacy students off-site, depending on enrollment.

Program registration began on August 21, 2017, at the Downtown YMCA.  YMCA staff will also be in attendance at each of the five Middle School Open Houses and Back to School Nights to provide more detail on the program specifics and assist with on-site registration. The S.T.A.R.S. program will begin on Monday, September 18, 2017, from school dismissal until 6:30 p.m., and will operate Monday through Friday.

For additional information on the program description, daily activities, and how to register, visit the website and contact Julie Marker, Youth/Teen Coordinator at or call 301-663-5131, ext. 1227. View their advertisement on page 3.

Theresa Dardanell

Leadership, kindness, honesty, and a caring attitude are only a few of the characteristics of the students honored during the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration on January 12, 2017, at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School. One student from each of the Frederick County Public Schools was chosen for this award. The quotes below are from the nominations submitted by the staff at each school in the Catoctin feeder area.

Michael Tylicki (senior at Catoctin High) was selected to represent Catoctin High School as this year’s King Award Winner because “He works well with all students, including those with special needs. Learning for Life students love Mikey for his kindness and willingness to help them. Instead of aligning with a specific peer group, he is really a friend to all. Michael is a humble student who is honest and cares about others. He is a quiet leader, mature beyond his years.”

Abigail Christian (eight-grade student at Thurmont Middle) was chosen for this honor because “She is a wonderfully caring and helpful student. She contributes to the learning environment, volunteering to tutor students having difficulty and sharing honestly with them with what they have to do. Because Abigail puts forth her best, she is able to earn very good grades. Abigail has a bright, infectious and sunny attitude, making her a positive role model. She is a considerate and respectful leader.”

Trey Glass (second-grade student at Thurmont Primary) received this award. Staff and students describe him as “displaying great heart power, perseverance by never giving up, and always having a positive can-do attitude.” They consider him a leader.

Patrick Payton (fifth-grade student at Thurmont Elementary) was presented with this award because “Patrick is all of the things one would expect of a young leader: honest, hardworking, and caring towards others; but Patrick is more than just these things. He is also the kind of person who holds high expectations for himself, making him a leader by example as well as by character.” Patrick is a Safety Patroller at Thurmont Elementary School.

Cody Faulkner (fifth-grade student at Emmitsburg Elementary) received this honor because “He continuously demonstrates the six pillars of character at Emmitsburg Elementary School. Cody follows directions the first time they are given and perseveres to complete assignments to the best of his ability. He is a quiet leader who consistently uses manners with adults and students. Through his actions, he encourages other students to make appropriate choices when solving problems. Humbly, Cody strives to help others at all times without being asked or without thought of praise or reward for himself.”

Jenna Conley (fifth-grade student at Lewistown Elementary) was chosen for this award because “Jenna has served as Peer Ambassador two years, is a Morning News crew member, and an art helper. She uses ROARing good behavior and lives her school motto to Learn, Excel and Succeed. A leader with gratitude, Jenna consistently includes others. She participates in Girls On The Run and is a great role model with a contagious upbeat attitude. She helps with classroom tasks and is trustworthy and honest, showing responsibility as she perseveres.”

Kylie Stracener (fifth-grade student at Sabillasville Elementary) received this award because “She consistently demonstrates the leadership qualities characteristic of Dr. King and the Pillars of Character Counts.”

Theresa Dardanell

On November 18, 2016, Mother Nature gave Thurmont Elementary students a perfect autumn day to hold their ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new playground and to share a message of kindness. All of the students and staff were joined by parents, PTA members, and a large group of visitors. The playground was funded by Frederick County Public Schools and installed by Playground Specialists, Inc.

Principal Christina McKeever began the ceremony by introducing some of the guests who played a role in making this playground possible. Frederick County Public Schools representatives included: Dr. Alban, Superintendent; Dr. Markoe, Deputy Superintendent; Ray Barnes, Chief Operating Officer; James Hitchner, Curriculum Specialist; Mark Pritts, Director.  Also present were: PTA members, Traci Tatum, Kristen Daly, Jan Jones, Tina Rippeon, and Sherri Eichelberger; Wes Hamrick, Thurmont Commissioner; Theresa Dardanell, The Catoctin Banner; former Guidance Counselor Elizabeth Myers; and representatives from Playground Specialists, Inc.  “Thank you” banners made by the students were presented to the guests. The visitors joined together to cut the ceremonial ribbon, and the playground was officially ready to be enjoyed.

Singing and dancing were a big part of the occasion. In addition to singing the school song, the students enthusiastically performed the Dance for Kindness. The organization, Life Vest Inside, provided the song “Keys to the World” and the choreography for the dance, which promotes acts of kindness.


Thurmont Elementary students, along with Superintendent Dr. Alban, on the new playground. In addition to the slides, there are many other pieces for climbing, spinning and balancing.

Anita DiGregory
After two years of receiving targeted assistance via the Title I program, Thurmont Primary School (TPS) transitioned to a school-wide Title I status on July 1, 2016. Due to the hard work of the school staff, the Maryland State Department of Education approved the school-wide Title I status for the 2016-17 school year. Thurmont Primary had entered the Title I program in 2014 and was receiving targeted assistance in an effort to help raise student achievement. Having transitioned to the school-wide Title I program, the school is now able to receive additional supplemental support.

According to Jodi Vallaster, Title I coordinator with Frederick County Public Schools, “This program model affords all students in the school the opportunity to receive direct benefit from Title I resources.” These resources may include, but are not limited to, additional staffing, professional learning opportunities for teachers and staff, and instructional materials. In addition, families will be provided with added opportunities for involvement in the school. Vallaster added, “The Title I program is really a great opportunity for the school and the community. It provides additional support to the great work that is already going on at Thurmont Primary School.”

As a result of the newly acquired school-wide Title I status, TPS has been able to plan and implement some wonderful programs for students and families for the current school year. The school will be hosting a health fair night on October 13, 2016, a Maryland Science Center program on November 16, 2016, and a Math and Literacy Night on April 4, 2017. Additionally, all students this year are being offered a well-balanced breakfast in their classrooms. The students really seem to be enjoying this program, according to Student Support Specialist Kathy Firor. Firor added, “This is a wonderful program and a huge benefit to the children.”

James Rada, Jr.

When Amanda Portner was a young girl, she would pretend to be a teacher, writing on a chalkboard and assigning classwork. Of course, she may be the only teacher to have ever been given a time-out by her mother.

“I kept trying to give my little sister detention, because she wouldn’t do the homework that I assigned her,” Portner said.

Portner, who is a literacy specialist at Thurmont Middle School, was named the Frederick County Public Schools 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year.

“I was absolutely floored when I found out,” Portner said. “They got me good.”

Portner thought that the school was going to have a celebration of the end of state testing in April. She was standing on the stage behind the curtain with others, expecting a pep rally to start, but when the principal came out and started speaking, Portner realized that she wasn’t talking about testing.

Then the curtains opened and Portner saw students applauding, as well as her friends, mother, husband, and sister. The pep rally was actually a gathering to announce Portner was teacher of the year.

Portner has been a teacher for nineteen years, all of them with Frederick County Public Schools. She began her career at Thomas Johnson Middle School as a theater arts teacher and eventually became a language arts teacher.

In 2005, she became a secondary literacy specialist at Walkersville High School. In 2008, she became a teacher specialist for secondary English/language arts in the Central Office. In 2012, she returned to the role of secondary literacy specialist at Thurmont Middle School.

Portner was delighted to teach at Thurmont Middle, because she also lived in the community until March of this year with her husband, Joe, and their dog, Peanut.

“I love the community,” Portner said. “I lived here for thirteen years, and I was excited to come here as a teacher.”

Since 2000, she has served as an FCPS curriculum writer and teacher trainer. She’s co-directed the Maryland Writing Project for Frederick since 2008, and, since 2014, she has also taught English for the FCPS Virtual School.

“I was meant to be a teacher,” Portner said. “Even as a child, I played school once I was old enough to have chalk.”

Portner said that she loves working with middle-school children. “There’s something magical about being in school with children that age and seeing them figure out their identities,” said Portner.

Since the announcement, those students have been giving Portner a lot of high-fives when they see her in the hall, offering her congratulations. Portner was chosen as teacher of the year from among sixty-four nominees.

“Amanda’s enthusiasm is contagious, and she is a master at inspiring others. Teachers flock to her professional development offerings, finding Amanda to be an expert in what she shares and full of ‘no nonsense’ examples and strategies that they can use in the classroom the next day. Teachers also appreciate her wonderfully warm sense of humor and presentation style,” said Principal Jennifer Powell.

The Board of Education of Frederick County honored Portner and the other nominees at the May 13, 2015, meeting.

The Maryland Board of Education honored Portner and all the state’s school district teacher of the year winners at a luncheon on May 19, 2015. The Maryland Teacher of the Year will be announced in October. The winner will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition.


Amanda Portner (pictured), the literacy specialist at Thurmont Middle School, was named the Frederick County Public Schools 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year.

Photo by James Rada, Jr.