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.
Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle School
"The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility, we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom. - Bell Hooks
Berol Dewdney believes that our nation's youngest learners are the revolutionary leaders our world desperately needs and that Baltimore can show our country what early childhood education must be for all students: anti-bias, anti-racist education that is grounded in love and rooted in the neuroscience of brain development. Graduating from Colby Colleges with a bachelor’s degree in Gender Studies, and earning her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Education, Berol is in her ninth year of teaching the true “teachers of the year”: four and five-year-olds in Baltimore City! She is deeply humbled for the opportunity to elevate their power and voice through this selection process. As a prekindergarten educator and team lead at Commodore John Rodgers, Tools of the Mind endorsed curriculum and instructional coach across the district, City Schools Model teacher, kindergarten readiness consultant, Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award Regional Finalist, and Kennedy Leadership Award winner, Berol’s work is centered around the development of executive functioning skills, the most accurate predictor of life outcomes. That is how Berol believes we will reach educational equity.
Pre-K - 5 Mathematics
Cecil Elementary School
“Believe.” - Ted Lasso
Jamilla Fort is a passionate educator serving as a teacher with City Schools for 9 years. She has established and managed multiple summer and after-school programs, having been awarded a 500k grant from MSDE to do so. She has collaborated to create and lead teams on district initiatives such as the Student Learning Plans, where she serves as both the teacher lead and an SLP ambassador lead. She worked during the pandemic to collect data for the safe return of students for hybrid learning via the “Shining Stars” summer program and also created a support for virtual learning and teaching called “Virtual Best Practices: for Teachers by Teachers”. Jamilla hosts her live show “Chit-Chats with Fort” and has an initiative on Twitter called #ExperienceMondays, where she encourages educators to start their week on a positive and inspirational note! Jamilla was a 2021 Teacher of the Year finalist.
10th – 12th Grade Graphic Design/Interactive Media
Baltimore Design School
We have been taught to fear the very things that have the potential to set us free” - Alok Vaid-Menon
Harris founded the Graphic Design pathway at Baltimore Design School, and sponsors the National Art Honor Society and Gender and Sexuality clubs at the school. Mx. Harris was a finalist for Baltimore City Teacher of the Year in 2019 and 2020. Additionally, they received the high honor of Maryland Secondary Art Educator in 2021, as well as the Eastern Regional Secondary Art Educator Award in 2022, recognizing their excellence at the state and national level. Harris also serves as a Fine Arts mentor in BCPSS, as a region 2 representative and as Co-VP of Programs for the MAEA state council, and was a 2020 resident in the School of Visual Arts' summer online illustration program, working as a freelance illustrator since then for various education and non-profit organizations including the Baltimore Teacher's Union and Showing Up for Racial Justice. In both their classroom and their artwork, Harris’ commitment to social justice is the thread that ties their work together.
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 has been a high school English teacher for the past 18 years, 13 of which he has had the honor of teaching for Baltimore City Public Schools at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Mr. Pappas earned degrees in English and English Education from the University of Maryland, College Park, and a Master of Liberal Arts at Johns Hopkins University. He is the coach of the Poly Ethics team, which has achieved great success on state and national levels, and he continues to serve as the content team lead for 10th grade English. Mr. Pappas was a 2021 Semi-Finalist for Baltimore City Public Schools. He is passionate about teaching literature, writing, and critical thinking, and for creating learning spaces where all students feel intellectually challenged, safe, and recognized. In his free time, Mr. Pappas loves to travel, cook, read, play music, and be with his family.
9th Grade Mathematics
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 lifelong learner and dynamic educator who brings joy, inclusivity, and community-building to any classroom she leads. 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. Currently a Pre-AP Algebra I teacher at Western High School, Katy serves as the Algebra I content team leader, 9th grade team leader, Union Learning Representative, and K-Pop Club Sponsor. In her time in Baltimore City Schools, she has advocated for reform around secondary math assessment practices, she has developed and facilitated a professional development course entitled “Addressing Curricular Gaps in Secondary Mathematics: Rethinking Mathematics & Curriculum Revision,” and she has written and piloted curricular materials to make Western High School the first and only Pre-AP school in the state of Maryland. Katy was a 2021 Teacher of the Year Finalist for Baltimore City Schools. Outside of teaching, Katy volunteers with the Station North Tool Library and enjoys reading, hiking, swing-dancing, cooking, and bird-watching.
4th Grade ELA and Social Studies
Thomas Johnson Elementary/Middle
"So often you find that the students you are trying to inspire are the ones that end up inspiring you." - Sean Junkins
Katie Scotti, an ELA and Social Studies teacher at Thomas Johnson Elementary Middle School, has been an educator in City Schools for 16 years. Katie is passionate about setting high expectations for all students and supporting students through engaging instruction and relationship building. Katie has a master’s degree in literacy from The University of Buffalo and a bachelor’s degree in education from Geneseo College. Katie earned her administration certificate through New Leaders. At Thomas Johnson, Katie leads academic planning, is a member of the Instructional Leadership Team, and is a Restorative Practices Champion. She also leads many student groups within the school community. Katie has provided ELA professional development to teachers district and nationwide. Katie is a past Teacher of the Year Semi-Finalist as well as a Mentor of the Year Finalist.
12th Grade English; AP Capstone Research
Baltimore Polytechnic Institute
“Literature is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks at reality, then you can change it.” - James Baldwin
Brenda Serpick is a devoted English and AP Research teacher at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, where she has taught for eight of her 18 years as an educator. She leads the English IV and AP Research teams, serves as School Family Council co-chair and on the Poly Equity Committee, and is faculty advisor for the school’s creative writing club, The PolyGraphs, which publishes an annual writing and arts journal. A published poet in her own right, Ms. Serpick believes in the power of narratives and poetry to build community, foster equity, and connect us all - in and out of the classroom.
8th Grade SPED; ELA and Mathematics
Commodore John Rodgers Elementary/Middle
“There is no experience from which you cannot learn something.” - Eleanor Roosevelt
Melanie Sessa is a middle school special educator committed to inclusive education at Commodore John Rodgers. She earned her undergraduate degree from The Pennsylvania State University and her master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Melanie serves as the Special Education Instructional Lead and has collaborated with the Maryland Coalition for Inclusive Education to support all students in the general education environment. She has a passion for teaching reading and is currently a member of the Baltimore Secondary Literacy Improvement Community. Melanie also oversees and coaches the Girls on the Run program at CJR.
Walter P. Carter Elementary School
“A wise person speaks carefully and with truth, for every word that passes between one’s teeth is meant for something.” Molefi Kete Asante
Alisia Stokes is a dedicated teacher who believes the art of teaching begins with love. She earned her undergraduate degree from Morgan State University and her master's degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Currently, Alisia teaches Kindergarten at Walter P. Carter Elementary/Middle School. When she is not engaging her young learners, she can be found strengthening the pedagogical practices of her peers through teaching various courses throughout the district and mentoring early career teachers. She also leads a Professional Learning Community to support teachers of all grade levels and disciplines. Her passion is teaching students to read.
2nd - 5th Grade SPED; STEAM
Arlington Elementary/Middle School
"If we want our children to move mountains, we first have to let them get out of their chairs." - Nicolette Sowder
Melissa Thompson is a 13th-year educator teaching at Arlington Elementary School 234. She teaches SpEd and coordinates STEAM programs. Example programs include beekeeping, hydroponics, and animal husbandry. Melissa is an experienced curriculum writer and committee representative for the MSDE and City Schools. She works with MAEOE and InDiGO nonprofits as a liaison to influence policy and outdoor opportunities for students. Melissa is a certified K-12 teacher and is licensed to teach science, chemistry, PLTW, and special education. She holds degrees in biology, science education, and computer/mathematical science from the University of Maryland-College Park. Melissa is a National PAEMST Science Awardee.
* Maryland State Teacher of the Year Finalist
** Maryland State Teacher of the Year Winner
The nomination window for Teacher of the Year ended on March 2, 2022
Candidates who meet the requirements outlined below are eligible to win:
Nominated teachers were contacted and invited to submit an application to compete for the 2022-2023 City Schools Teacher of the Year. The winner of the 2022 City Schools Teacher of the Year will compete for the honor of the 2022 Maryland State Teacher of the Year. Additionally, we will celebrate the top 10 nominees at the year's end.