Who’s the best teacher in Montgomery County? A freshman English teacher at Northwest High School might be a contender.
Christie Ground, 30, of North Potomac, was among three finalists for Teacher of the Year, an honor bestowed by the Marian Greenblatt Education Fund, in collaboration with Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education and Montgomery County Public Schools System.
The other nominees were Judith Chinn, an environmental science and chemistry teacher at Clarksburg High School; and Heydi Dupre, a Spanish teacher at John T. Baker Middle School.
The winner will be announced at a gala at MedImmune’s Gaithersburg headquarters on Wednesday. The local winner will be in the running for the national Teacher of the Year award — an honor earned by Montgomery County teacher Kim Oliver in 2005.
Ground has been teaching for eight years. Patch caught up with Ground ahead of her signature honors English class, which was wrapping up a unit on “Romeo & Juliet.”
Q&A with Christie Ground, Teacher of the Year nominee
Patch: What made you fall in love with the profession?
Ground: Each day is different. Each day, you have an opportunity to do something amazing. That aha moment on kids' faces that you were able to bring out of them.
Patch: Once you got into it, how did you tap into that and not just make getting to that “aha” a random blip?
Ground: I think that as a teacher you have to realize that you're going to have in each class 30 different students with 30 different learning styles. So one of the things that you have to be able to do is adapt and you have to be able to adapt what you're trying to teach to 30 different people. It's ever changing. Nothing is constant. Though maybe we've had the same curriculum for let's say 10 years, every year is different. You change every year to meet the needs of each student.
Patch: What sorts of things do you introduce to your freshmen?
Ground: We start out teaching them research. We research the 1930s; we allow them to choose a topic from that relates to the books that we teach — "Of Mice and Men" and "To Kill a Mocking Bird." We teach them the research process. We teach them to analyze, and critically think about what they're reading.
Patch: To shift gears a bit, how is it that you ended up in the running for this award and what was your reaction when you found out that you were?
Ground: My Principal, Lance (Dempsey). ... She told me she was getting emails from parents. She was hearing really great things. Of course I was completely grateful, I did not think anything was going to come of that. So, when she found out I was chosen, one of the three, I was floored. It sounds silly, but I didn't know why. In our school alone, we've got a million teachers who could have gotten an award.
Patch: Aside from the material you set out to teach, the basic concepts of English, what mark would you like to leave on your students as their teacher?
Ground: Everything in English is so subjective. I always try to tell them that they need to be good lawyers. And that nothing is really wrong in terms of how they're writing or how they're thinking. It can't really be wrong because it's their thought. But it's how they're able to convey the message. If they can convey what they're trying to say, they've got it. It's all about formatting it so that somebody else can understand the thought. Then you're right. You can't be wrong.