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MCPS Educator a Finalist for Maryland Teacher of the Year

September 3, 2013

Cristina Ulrich, the 2013–2014 MCPS Teacher of the Year, has been named one of seven finalists for 2014 Maryland Teacher of the Year. Ulrich, a kindergarten teacher at Brookhaven Elementary School, got the news today when MCPS Superintendent Joshua P. Starr dropped by her classroom unannounced.

“Congratulations to Cristina Ulrich on being named a finalist for Maryland Teacher of the Year,” said Dr. Starr. “Cristina is a wonderful example of the dedication and commitment that our educators have to our students and our community.”

Ulrich and six other finalists were selected by a panel of judges from key Maryland education organizations that represent principals, teachers, boards of education, teacher unions, parents and higher education. The panel selected the finalists after reviewing their applications against a rigorous set of national criteria about teaching philosophy, results, community involvement, knowledge of education issues and suggestions for professional and instructional improvement.

Oral interviews will be conducted with the finalists before a winner is named at the Maryland Teacher of the Year gala on Friday, October 11, 2013, at Martin’s West in Baltimore.

Ulrich has been a teacher at Brookhaven since 2006 and is known for her enthusiasm, outstanding teaching skills and ability to customize instruction to meet the needs of individual students. In 2012, more than 75 percent of her students were English Language Learners yet all of them were reading at grade level or above by the end of the school year.

But her commitment goes beyond the classroom. She is a native Spanish speaker and frequently assists Spanish-speaking parents by answering questions and helping to solve problems. She also volunteers with the Literacy Council of Montgomery County, teaching English to adults. And each holiday season, she and her husband work to provide Christmas presents to school families that cannot afford gifts for their children. Robert Grundy, the principal who hired her in 2006, called it “one of the best decisions I have ever made in my 17 years as principal.”

The announcement comes just two weeks after one of the teachers Ulrich credits for her success received a national award. Mary Hawkins-Jones, now a fifth grade teacher at Westover Elementary School in MCPS, had Ulrich as a first grade student in 1990. She encouraged the shy young girl to participate in class and dream big. Ulrich credits Hawkins-Jones with making her realize she could achieve her dreams.

“The relationship between Mary Hawkins-Jones and Cristina Ulrich shows how important it is to instill hope in our students,” Dr. Starr said. “Hope can travel from person to person and have an impact that lasts for generations.”

The last MCPS Teacher to be named Maryland Teacher of the Year was Kimberly Oliver in 2006. Ms. Oliver, at the time, was a kindergarten teacher at Broad Acres Elementary School and was also named the 2006 National Teacher of the Year. Now Kimberly Burnim, she still works at Broad Acres as a reading specialist.

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