(April 5, 2019) Snow Hill Elementary School special education teacher Gina L. Russell was surprised in her classroom Wednesday when she was named the 2019 Worcester County Teacher of the Year.
“We could not be more excited to have Mrs. Russell serve as Worcester’s next ambassador in the Teacher of the Year program,” Superintendent of Schools Lou Taylor said. “She is not only an excellent teacher, but she is a leader in her field and an inspiration to her fellow teachers.”
Russell earned a bachelor of science in Biology from Salisbury University and a masters of special education from Wilmington University. Currently in her eighth year at Snow Hill Elementary School, Russell teaches the new Pre K3 inclusion classroom and services Pre-K4 students in the afternoon.
The special education teacher was “beyond excited and shocked” by the announcement.
“There are so many amazing candidates in this year and so many teachers in Worcester County and it was just truly a shock and it was wonderful,” Russell said. “I would love to take my certificate and share it with all of them because they’re truly all deserving. There are so many amazing teachers in this county. It’s a great feeling.”
Russell grew up in Worcester county and graduated from Stephen Decatur High School. Receiving the award from Taylor was extra touching for her, as he had been her principal.
“Mr. Taylor has been in my classroom before, so he knows the kids that I get to teach and it was really nice to have him in here with me for that moment,” Russell said. “It’s an honor to work in the county with the same people who taught me.”
She believes every student has the right to an appropriate education, one that inspires all students to communicate, grow, feel safe, and have a voice. Russell serves as the team leader for special education, as a mentor teacher for Salisbury University interns, and evaluates for the Infants and Toddlers team in the summer.
“I always loved helping others and making people feel safe and giving them a place where they can come and be happy and be successful,” Russell said. “I’ve always loved working with children. I went into special education and I never looked back.”
Recently, Russell hosted a team from Johns Hopkins University that wanted to observe the PK3 (prekindergarten for three-year-old’s) program that she has designed at Snow Hill Elementary School.
She will work with Ms. Holland, the 2018 Teacher of the Year, to fulfill her duties as this year’s honoree.
“Mrs. Russell is an incredibly dynamic teacher,” said Carrie Sterrs, coordinator of the Teacher of the Year program. “She keeps even our youngest students engaged and excited to learn. It’s an absolute joy to watch her in the classroom.”
Now that county awards have been presented, Russell and 23 other teachers representing each of the school systems in Maryland, will have their portfolios judged by the Maryland State Department of Education and the field will be narrowed to seven finalists. The finalists will be announced in September, and the winner in October.