Kent County Public Schools held its annual awards Thursday, March 30. From left are Promising Educator Jodi Bortz, Teacher of the Year Mary Jessica McGee and Support Employee of the Year Bethsheila Hunley.
WORTON — In thanking her family and her colleagues for being honored as the 2023 Teacher of the Year, Mary Jessica McGee took time to highlight the work of all her fellow educators in Kent County Public Schools.
Kent County Public Schools recognized teachers and staff Thursday, March 30 at its 2023 awards celebration.
The annual awards program honors the Teacher of the Year, Support Employee of the Year and the school system's Promising Educator.
Superintendent Dr. Karen Couch opened this year's ceremony in the Kent County High School auditorium, thanking all the school-based honorees for their service.
"Thank you for inspiring our students and thank you for dedicating your career to the service of others," Dr. Couch said. "By your actions, you change lives. You make the world a better place, one day at a time, one student at a time."
Kent County Public Schools Supervisor of Human Resources Dan Hushion served as the ceremony's emcee, introducing the winners of the awards for each building.
A special guest then opened the envelope to reveal the name of this year's overall winner.
Francoise Sullivan, vice president of the Kent County Board of Education, announced McGee as the Teacher of the Year.
McGee dedicated her award to "all of the teachers, all the support staff, all of you who work with kids every single day in our schools."
"I see you. I see you holding that hand. I see you giving that nudge," McGee said. "I see you. You have the most important job in the world."
She told the roomful of educators to never forget that their work matters.
"And it matters to each and every one of those children you are with every single day," McGee said. "So I see you and I'm very, very proud of you."
The school-based Teachers of the Year are Laura Morrone, H.H. Garnet Elementary School; David Jachimowicz, Rock Hall Elementary School; Roberto Copeland, Kent County Middle School; and Timothy Kelleman, Kent County High School.
McGee will go on to compete for Maryland Teacher of the Year.
Jodi Bortz, music teacher at H.H. Garnet and Rock Hall elementary schools, received this year's Promising Educator Award. The award is given to a teacher in the first years of their career in education.
Katelyn Boardman, a teacher at Rock Hall Elementary School and last Year's Promising Educator Award winner, made the announcement.
"Wow, I never thought I could be here or be a teacher," said Bortz, thanking her colleagues at Garnet and Rock Hall.
Also nominated this year for the Promising Educator Award were Taylor Johnston, H.H. Garnet Elementary School; Brooke Joyner, Rock Hall Elementary School; and Tykeya Jones, Kent County Middle School.
Bortz is a career-changer, having left the corporate world before joining Kent County Public Schools in 2021.
"Jodi goes above and beyond with our students, teaching before and after school," Hushion said, reading the letter of nomination Garnet Principal Brenda Rose submitted on behalf of Bortz. "She continues to be a champion in support for the arts in Chestertown."
Transportation Secretary Bethsheila Hunley, a member of the Kent County Public Schools Central Office team, was honored as the Support Employee of the Year.
"Her pleasant voice and very polite demeanor has given our parents a sense of peace when they have had to call about an issue they may have had," Hushion said. "She is the first person at work every day, showing up very level-headed and always striving to do the right thing."
Hunley's name was announced by Kent County Board of Education member Trish McGee.
"It's a well deserved honor. Congratulations," Trish McGee told Hunley.
The school-based Support Employees of the Year are Theodosia Parker, H.H. Garnet Elementary School; Tracy Piasecki, Rock Hall Elementary School; Chanelle Copper, Kent County Middle School; and Joann Miller, Kent County High School.
Hunley said it was an honor to be named Support Employee of the Year and thanked Supervisor of Operations Joseph Wheeler for his support.
"I am thankful for being allowed to be a part of Transportation," Hunley said. "The bus drivers, the aids, the attendants and the secretaries in the schools — all of you have made this journey a very pleasant journey. And I thank you all."
Karen Carty, the 2022 Kent County Teacher of the Year, gave a keynote address and spoke about her year competing for Maryland Teacher of the Year, including a visit to the White House.
The most important aspect of the experience for Carty was the connection she made with the 23 other Teachers of the Year from Maryland's school systems.
Carty thanked the evening's honorees from each of the buildings, saying they all deserved the recognition they were receiving.
"Each and every one of you makes Kent County Public Schools the great place it is," she said. "Thank you for working so hard. Thank you for motivating our students and guiding them to become the people that are meant to be."