ELKTON — For Staci Lamb’s students, reading the classics or completing writing assignments don’t feel like work because laughter is plentiful in her classroom too.
“She’s very corny, but I like her whole concept for teaching. She tries to make it fun,”said freshman Milan Jones, recalling how she and her classmates acted out scenes from “Romeo and Juliet” when the class read the Shakespeare classic.
For freshman Chris Martin, it’s the authenticity of Lamb’s connection to students that stands out.
“The staff here is very different than my other teachers, you can tell they’re being themselves and having fun doing it. They bring their personalities to the classroom,” he said. “Plus she lets me sit wherever I want.”
Lamb, a fifth-year freshman English teacher at Elkton High School, was named the 2018 Cecil County Public Schools Teacher of the Year on Thursday night during the annual banquet dinner.
Upon earning the recognition from a slate of 16 candidates across the system, Lamb’s Elkton High colleagues burst into celebration in their corner of the Singerly Fire Company Banquet Hall.
“This recognition is truly an honor and one that I will cherish forever,” she said.
While she calls it her passion today, teaching was not what she originally pursued at the University of Delaware, Lamb recalled.
“I started as an international business major, and something was off my entire freshman year,” she said. “I didn’t really enjoy the classes. I had a job with a cubicle for a while that year, and even though I was good at my job it didn’t feel like this was what I was supposed to do with my life.”
It was an off-the-cuff suggestion from a friend that lead Lamb to consider teaching, and she ended up changing her major.
“Everything was perfect from there and student teaching solidified it for me,” she said.
Lamb recalled that on Feb. 4, 2013, she got her first real look at teaching when she took over a classroom as a student teacher.
“No class or textbook truly prepared me for what I would learn over the next three months: teaching is truly the best job ever,” she said. “I fell in love with Elkton High School, so much so that I was named ‘Most Likely to Cry’ at the end of my student teaching cohort.”
While she held back tears upon leaving the school, she didn’t leave for long. She held on to hope that administrators might remember her for one of two openings at the school the following school year. Just a few weeks after her student teaching concluded, she received a call from Elkton High Principal John Roush who offered her a job.
“Believe it or not, I cried again,” she said.
In her first year, Lamb taught sophomores and got to see several of the students from her student teaching in her classroom.
“That was a really nice transition into my first job,” she said.
For Lamb, teaching provides an outlet for the “creative spark in me that came alive.”
“I love to think about how to make the content engaging,” she said. “I try to stay on top of pop culture and trends, because I want to be relevant to them. I’ll put my bitmoji in my presentations.”
While her approach may play well to younger students, Lamb said she enjoyed the challenge of reaching high schoolers.
“I like this age range because they’re almost adults, and you get to see them grow from ninth to 12th grade,” she said. “Seeing my student teaching kids grow over four years and graduate was amazing. I cried when I saw them get their diplomas.”
One of the projects that has stood out in her time at Elkton High was the compilation and publication of “Behind the Doors of G110.” Inspired by “The Freedom Writers Diary,” Lamb’s book compiled 70 stories from each of her students, written anonymously, about any subject in their life.
“It has all kinds of stories from winning their first football game to watching their parent die, some of very heartbreaking while others are inspirational,” she said.
Lamb said the best part of her job isn’t the summers or snow days off, but working with the students.
“I’m reminded every day of why I became a teacher,” she said, recalling a story where a student thanked Lamb for giving her a B grade only for Lamb to explain that she earned the grade. “Thank you to every single student who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and who make me smile every day.”
Lamb said she was “overwhelmed with joy,” when Roush approached her earlier this year to ask if she was interested in running for Teacher of the Year.
“It was an honor for them to ask me to represent Elkton High,” she said.
Along with the Teacher of the Year recognition, Lamb won a $3,000 cash prize, an iPad, an overnight stay at a Cecil County bed and breakfast, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development conference attendance, a reserved parking space at Elkton High, and a $1,000 grant from the Business and Education Partnership Advisory Council (BEPAC).
On the horizon, the Delaware-native is preparing to move to a townhouse in Elkton, making her “a Cecil Countian through and through,” she said.
“That $3,000 comes at a very convenient time,” she said with a laugh.
She will also compete for the title of Maryland Teacher of the Year in October.
Superintendent D’Ette Devine, who oversaw her last Teacher of the Year program before her retirement in June, said Thursday night that all of the nominees were qualified. She expects Lamb will do well in the statewide competition.
“This group of nominees was an outstanding representation of the best in the teaching profession,” she said. “Staci’s genuine love of teaching is evident in how she interacts with her students, in her dedication to her school community, and in her drive to constantly seek out new and innovative ideas to bring into her classroom and share with her colleagues. I am confident that Staci will do an excellent job representing Cecil County as she moves forward to the state Teacher of the Year competition.”