Each year, City Schools celebrates its great teachers with the Teacher of the Year award. Through a competitive process that includes applications, essays, and recommendations followed by interviews and classroom observations of the finalists, the candidate pool is narrowed until the winner is announced by the CEO in a surprise classroom visit.
K-5 ESOL Teacher
Wolfe Street Academy
"Be the person you needed when you were younger." -Ayesha Siddiqi
Liz Bucke is committed to education and social issues. She holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from Notre Dame of Maryland University (2013), a bachelor’s degree from Towson University (2009), and an associate’s degree from Harrisburg Area Community College (2003). Currently an ESOL teacher, Ms. Bucke has also taught general education and special education for Baltimore City Schools. She has served as the Union Learning Representative for her school and has served on her school's Covid-19 relief team and on the school family council. Additionally, she has helped to establish and maintain partnerships for her school with The National Park Trust and with Girls on the Run.
6th Grade – Mathematics Teacher
The Stadium School
"A leader…..is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, where upon the others follow, not realizing that all along they were being directed from behind.”
~ Nelson Mandela
Alisha Copeland is a dedicated educator that promotes an equitable change in the lives of young minds. In Service, currently Alisha is a 6th Grade Mathematics Teacher at The Stadium School. She has a Master's degree from Grand Canyon University (2016) and a Bachelor's degree from Morgan State University (2012). She has supported various students though a middle to high mentoring program partnered with Morgan State University. She's helped launch Stadium School's PTO (2019) and is an active board member. She leads the math team at Stadium School and works closely with teachers, administrators, and district leaders to provide an equitable and creative educational experience for all students. Alisha believes all students can achieve, but it’s the responsibility of the educator to ignite the exploration.
K-5 Mathematics and SPED Teacher
"I know that we can win. I know greatness lies in you. But remember from here on in, history has its eyes on you." - Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: An American Musical
Jamilla Fort is a creative educational innovator, teacher leader, and academic program designer with a focus on mass student impact. Jamilla has created, taught, and led her own music program (Bmore Music! LLC), was awarded a half-million-dollar MSDE grant to design and lead academic enrichment programming to improve student outcomes and culture school-wide and was appointed by district leaders to design, teach and lead BCPSS summer pilots that directly informed district decision making for SY 20-21 virtual/hybrid learning. This summer, she led a team of teachers in creating the “Virtual Best Practices for Teachers by Teachers” tool for all BCPSS teachers and is the Founder/CEO of “Chit-Chats with Fort” where she connects with students, parents, teachers, and leaders on weekly live shows and offers free professional development through her platform. Jamilla believes that teaching is about going above and beyond so that students have their best chance at success!
Pre-Kindergarten SPED Teacher
William S. Baer School
“A word after a word after a word is power.” – Margaret Atwood
Shawn Gardiner is a Pre-K Special Educator with a passion for communication, early childhood development, and family engagement. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from The Pennsylvania State University in Special Education and Curriculum & Instruction, respectively. She is currently enrolled in a Master’s program in Education Policy at American University to broaden her lens of the education system. In her current role, she has led numerous professional developments related to facilitating communication for students with severe language impairments and creating an authentic, play-based curriculum for students with multiple disabilities. Shawn is an advocate for community schools and believes students are most successful when schools, families, and communities work together.
K-8 Mathematics Teacher and Opportunity Culture Multi-Classroom Lead
Hazelwood Elementary Middle School
"Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
Loria McIntyre is the Opportunity Culture Multi Classroom Lead at Hazelwood Elementary Middle School. She holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Temple University and received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from Syracuse University. Loria has over 14 years of experience in the district as a math and history teacher. She works hard at equity in the classroom and promoting college aspirations in her students. In 2016 she won the MBABSE Teacher of the Year Award and was a Semi- Finalist in 2014 for Baltimore City Teacher of the Year. Her former student Kwesi Evans credits her with his choice to attend Temple University on a Football Scholarship, which she is very proud of.
10th and 11th Grade English Teacher
Polytechnic Institute High School
“What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.” -Paulo Freire
Andrew Pappas is an English and Fine Arts teacher at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, where he has taught for the past 12 of his 17 professional teaching years. Andrew earned his Bachelors of English and English Education from the University of Maryland, College Park, and his Masters of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University. In addition to teaching, Andrew is also the coach of the Poly Ethics team, which won the Maryland State Regional Tournament in 2020, and was named the Baltimore Urban Debate League’s Coach of the Year in 2015. He takes tremendous satisfaction from the profession, and cannot imagine doing anything other than working with students and teaching them to be critical thinkers, strong writers, and more empathetic human beings.
9th Grade Mathematics Teacher
Western High School
"What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”
~ Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change
Katy Rennenkampf (she/they) is a lifelong learner who brings inclusivity, community, and joy to any classroom she leads-- and can even make math class seem fun! She holds bachelor's degrees in Mathematics, Economics, and English Literature from the University of Maryland, and a master's degree in Secondary Mathematics Education from Johns Hopkins University. She currently teaches 9th grade Algebra at Western High School, where she empowers students to break barriers and be leaders in the math classroom, and she supports colleagues in ongoing professional growth and development. Outside of school, Katy mentors youth with the Baltimore Dance Crews Project (she's better at the mentoring than the dancing); she also facilitates social justice classes with the Civic Education Project, helping high school students grow into change agents within their own communities.
6th – 8th Grade Science Teacher
The Mount Washington School
"Don't settle for average. Bring your best to the moment. Then, whether it fails or succeeds, at least you know you gave all you had. We need to live the best that's in us."
Leaha Charles-Pierre, aka Ms. Thomas, a Science educator/mentor/coach, has dedicated 18+ years to teaching and shaping the lives of youth in Baltimore City. She has a M.A.T from UMBC (2004) and MS from Sports Academy (2001), and a BS in Health Science from Alcorn State University (2000). She teaches Science at The Mount Washington School, where she serves as a middle school team lead, teacher mentor, SFC Co-chair, PTO board member, Volleyball Coach, Yearbook coordinator, 8th grade Advisor, and Restorative School Champion. Leaha is a 2007 “America Stellar Educator for STEM” Honoree and named the 2018 “Henrietta Lacks” Exemplary Educator. Educators must patiently guide the youth of today if we want them to yield success tomorrow.
7th and 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher
"When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game."
- Toni Morrison
Sidney Thomas is a current 7th and 8th grade model teacher at Holabird Academy, where she has taught both Social Studies and ELA. Sidney earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Millsaps College and her Master of Arts in English from Jackson State University. She is committed to racial equity and to supporting students as they blossom and thrive. As a BMore Me Fellow, she develops and writes a racially equitable and culturally responsive Social Studies curriculum for Baltimore City Schools. Sidney also serves as a Multi-Classroom Lead, Holabird Equity Committee Leader, Project LIT leader, and other outside roles such as a CHARM magazine advisory board member and a One Book Baltimore committee member. Sidney was a 2019 Teacher of the Year Semi-Finalist for Baltimore City Public Schools.
9th -12th Grade Mathematics Teacher
Bard High School Early College Baltimore
“All students have mathematical ideas worth listening to, and our job as teachers is to help students learn to develop and express these ideas clearly”. (Cathy Humphreys & Ruth Parker, 2015)
Catherine VanNetta earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees at Towson University and her doctorate in mathematics curriculum and instruction at the University of Maryland. Dr. VanNetta has over fifteen years of public school teaching experience including her current position at Bard High School Early College. Dr. V also has post-secondary teaching experience in both mathematics and teacher education at the University of Maryland and the Community Colleges of Baltimore County. She has worked on several NSF grant-funded positions in teacher preparation, developed a summer math curriculum for Baltimore’s Promise Grads2Careers program, earned two fellowships in undergraduate education, and served as part of a collaborative team earning a SEMINAL (Student Engagement in Mathematics) grant. Recent school-based projects include a math club and collaborative projects on an afterschool resource room and a ninth-grade support team. In her teaching, she seeks to affirm learners’ identities as “doers” of mathematics by creating a responsive classroom culture built around student ideas.
* Maryland State Teacher of the Year Finalist
** Maryland State Teacher of the Year Winner