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.
8th Grade Social Studies
“If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair" - Shirley Chisholm
Theresa Bruce is a champion of student voice, educational equity, and teacher wholeness. A native Baltimorean hailing from West Baltimore, she is a graduate of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (2005) as well as the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (2009). After earning a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago (2011), she knew there would be no better place to advocate for youth than her hometown of Baltimore. Currently, she is a Social Studies teacher, passionate about student voice & student choice and the infusion of cultural relevance and advocacy into her lessons. She also is a leader in the use of instructional technology in her school community as a 2019 Future of School Grant recipient and 2020 Modern Classrooms Fellowship recipient.
9th -12th Grade English
Mergenthaler High School
“True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.” - Nikos Kazantzakis
Rebecca Gabriel is committed to equity in education for all students. She attended Johns Hopkins University for a Master’s in School Administration and obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from Goucher College in 2012. Rebecca currently teaches 10th grade English at Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School but has an extensive background in grades 9-12 as well as Special Education. Rebecca incorporates Social/Emotional Learning practices in her classroom to ensure that her instruction reaches all students and gives them the space to think critically. Rebecca is a member of her school’s Instructional Leadership Team, a New Teacher Mentor, and facilitates Professional Development at the district level.
8th Grade Science
Lakeland Elementary/Middle School
"Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think." - Albert Einstein (1921)
Melissa Garcia is committed to creating the next generation of scientists and engineers. She has a Master’s Degree and a graduate certificate in STEM Education from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California Berkeley. Currently a science teacher, she enjoys seeing the excitement in student’s faces when they interact with what they are learning. Melissa is a member of her school’s culture committee and loves volunteering at their Hispanic Heritage Month event. She is also the coach of her school’s award-winning robotics team and has received the Johns Hopkins Community Hero award.
10th -12th Grade CTE
Baltimore Design High School
"Kids don't remember what you teach them. They remember what you are." - Jim Henson
Meghann Harris is a designer and illustrator dedicated to changing the face and racial makeup of the design community through her work as an educator. Meghann received both her Bachelor of Fine Arts (2011) in Graphic Design and her Master of Art in Teaching (2012) from the Maryland Institute College of Art. In addition to being a member of the Instructional Leadership Team and serving as CTE lead at Baltimore Design School for the past year, Miss Harris is also the club sponsor for both National Art Honor Society and Gay Straight Alliance working to build inclusive spaces in the school. Miss Harris speaks, annually, about her curriculum throughout the country and was a finalist for Baltimore City Teacher of the Year in 2019, in addition to serving as an Adobe Education Leader for 2019-2020 academic year. During the summer, Miss Harris teaches at Girls Garage in Berkeley, California, teaching young girls the power of building expertise in male-dominated trades. When she's not teaching, Meghann seeks to improve her artistic practice for the betterment of her curriculum and was named a resident in the School of Visual Arts' summer online illustration program for 2020.
4th Grade ELA/Social Studies
Medfield Heights Elementary
”Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness. That most frightens us…And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson
Rita Jackson, a Lead Learner, ILT member, and parent with City Schools, is committed to student wholeness, equity, building teacher capacity, and ensuring student access to a rich education that will allow them unlimited opportunities in the future. She holds a Master's degree from Phoenix University (2013) and a Bachelor’s degree through Notre Dame of Maryland (2004). She is currently an academic planning facilitator leading data-driven meetings, professional development, and instructional coaching all while teaching 4th grade. In past years, Ms. Jackson has worked with the literacy office in various ways, planned and facilitated courses for BCTR and NTI, and completed leadership training through the Emerging Leaders program.
6th -8th Grade Biology (Life Science)
Hamilton Elementary/Middle School
"We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own." - Ben Sweetland
Rogie Legaspi is a passionately dedicated Hamilton Middle School science teacher who has successfully taught in a variety of school settings (including private, public, rural, urban, secondary, and collegiate). Acquiring part of his education during the oppressive martial law in the Philippines, Rogie persevered through its cruel hardships by escaping in the inspiration that many of his teachers provided to acquire a distinctly unique appreciation for the value that a great education adds throughout the course of a child’s life, despite persistent oppression and injustice. Rogie earned his Master’s degree from Texas A&M International University, a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Saint La Salle, and recently a Certificate Program in Collective Bargaining from Cornell University. Among others, Rogie is a recipient of the (NABSE, 2016) National Outstanding Teacher Award and the (MBABSE, 2015) Teacher of the Year Award.
7th -8th Grade ELA
City Springs Elementary/Middle School
"Some people look for a beautiful place, others make a place beautiful." - Hazrat Inayah Khan
Wyatt Oroke is a nationally recognized educator for his work around social justice and promoting literacy. Mr. O earned his undergraduate degree from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and his master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Mr. O currently teaches 7th and 8th grade English at City Springs Elementary/Middle School. Mr. O also serves as the middle school team leader, the girls volleyball coach, the boys’ basketball coach, and a host of other roles at his school and in the community. Mr. O has received several state and national awards for his teaching including awards from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Baltimore, the Maryland State Senate, the Baltimore Orioles, and was awarded the “Superhero Award” by Ellen DeGeneres, where he was featured twice on her show. Mr. O was a 2019 Teacher of the Year Semi-Finalist for Baltimore City Public Schools.
4th Grade ELA/Social Studies
Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle School
"My teacher thought I was smarter than I was - so I was." - A Six Year Old
Katie Scotti is passionate about setting high expectations for all students, and supporting students in meeting those expectations through engaging instruction and relationship building. She has a Master’s Degree from The University of Buffalo and a Bachelor’s Degree from Geneseo College. Katie earned her Administration certificate through New Leaders. Currently an English Language Arts teacher, she leads academic planning, is a member of the Instructional Leadership Team, and a Restorative Practices Champion. Katie is a Wit & Wisdom Fellow, helping to provide professional development to teachers implementing the curriculum.
9th Grade Biology
Digital Harbor High School
“I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an indefatigable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion.” - Kurt Hahn
Nicole Veltre-Luton is relentless in the pursuit of getting her student's experiences in the environment and nature. She has a Master’s Degree in Instructional System Design from U.M.B.C. (1996), a Bachelor’s Degree from Towson University (1992), and is dually certified in English and Biology. Currently an ESL Biology and Biology teacher, she founded and coordinates the Digital Harbor High School & Community Garden, the Bike Club and is co-chair for Baltimore Inspiring Connections Outdoors. Nicole is a member of the instructional leadership team and coordinates professional development at her school for the staff and the Early Careers teachers.
Pre K – 5th Grade Music
Abbottston Elementary School
"Be the person you needed when you were younger." - Ayesha Siddiqi
Ariel Wirsching is committed to equity, Music education, and building partnerships with families. She has a Master’s Degree in Music Education from Towson University (2013) and a Dual Bachelor’s Degree in Instrumental Music Education/Violin Performance (2004). She is a proud graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts. Currently, she teaches Music, Choir and serves as her school’s Arts Integration Coach. She is also the Family Community Engagement and Title One Lead. She is an honorary member of the Epsilon Omega Chapter of Tau Beta Sigma at Morgan State University, and is grateful for their wonderful volunteerism at her school.
* Maryland State Teacher of the Year Finalist
** Maryland State Teacher of the Year Winner