If you don’t love Shakespeare, then you have never been a student in Lynn Hopkins’ language arts class. The longtime Milton M. Somers Middle School teacher has a knack for turning what some say is hard-to-read content into stories that students grow to love. For Hopkins, this is an easy feat because she loves what she teaches. “Working with people was my life ‘calling’ in the sense of sharing something I love with those around me, like the love of literature and writing,” Hopkins said of her choice to become a teacher.
Not only does Hopkins share her passion for teaching and literature with her classes; her passion for education is visible in all that she does. She exudes kindness, compassion and a commitment to help her students reach their highest potential. For these reasons and more, Hopkins was named the Charles County Public Schools 2018 Teacher of the Year.
Although Hopkins knew she was an award finalist, she had no idea she was selected for the honor until school staff arranged a special ceremony to surprise her with the news. Somers Principal Carrie Akins arranged for several of Hopkins’ students to help in the surprise. Hopkins said she was shocked by the news.
“I had absolutely no idea. Ms. Akins did such a beautiful job keeping the announcement secret until the big reveal, and I have to admit – having my students be a part of it was overwhelming and wonderful. I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s always about them and this award goes to my students just as much as it does to me,” Hopkins said.
Somers sixth grader Kyra Shafer helped to surprise her language arts teacher with the news and said Hopkins is the type of teacher who stands out. “She was in shock and started to cry. She is such an amazing teacher. If you are having a bad day and then walk in to Mrs. Hopkins class, it immediately changes to a positive day. She 110 percent deserves the Teacher of the Year award,” Shafer said.
In a recent lesson, Hopkins asked her students to develop Shakespearean “insults” to share with their classmates. Students lined up, faced a partner and traded their insults using words commonly found in Shakespearean works, such as frothy, dizzy eyed and haggard. The class erupted in laughter while sharing their insults, which Hopkins told her students is an important part of the learning process for understanding literature.
“This gives you a chance to learn the language, how you can present words with emotion and shows you that the way you speak – the diction – can have an effect on others,” Hopkins said to her class.
The way Hopkins presents content and how she speaks to her students has a positive impact on them, which in turn pushes them to grasp class lessons and take ownership in their learning. Her students are confident learners who eagerly await her class. Hopkins goes out of her way to make sure her students know that they matter and are supported.
Sixth grader Evan Adams enjoys Hopkins’ class because he said she makes learning fun and incorporates content for students with different learning needs. “She makes class interactive. She introduces things, like Shakespeare, in a fun way. We learn in lots of different ways, which helps to keep us focused,” Adams said.
One of fun ways in which Hopkins approaches teaching is through the occasional use of an alter ego, “Lady Hipkins,” who hails from Shakespearean times. Hopkins turns on the alter ego to engage students in learning about diction and literature. Lady Hipkins challenges her students to use higher-level thinking and questioning skills and to work together during fun and engaging classroom activities. “It’s always fun when her Lady Hipkins side comes out,” Adams said.
Hopkins is committed to growing relationships with her students. She encourages them to lead class discussions, share their thoughts and ideas and welcomes peer-to-peer dialogue when discussing a topic, assignment or activity. Akins wrote a letter of support for Hopkins’ nomination and in her letter, refers to Hopkins as the teacher of a lifetime.
“Mrs. Hopkins’ class is a safe place for children to be themselves because each is valued as an individual, as an irreplaceable part of the class, and as a human being. Lynn Hopkins is so much more than simply a teacher who year over year achieves the highest of results. She is someone who sees in every child every bit of potential and then builds within them a strong foundation,” Akins said.
Hopkins began her career with Charles County Public Schools in 2003 at Somers, where she has taught for the past 15 years. She said she chose a career in education to not only help others learn to love literature and writing, but because she wanted to make a difference. “It’s always about the students… never about me. They are why I am here, doing what I do every day,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins also strives to support the school community. She is the sixth-grade team leader, student mentor with the schools Check and Connect program, new teacher mentor, member of the language arts and gifted language curriculum writing teams and is pursuing National Board Certification in Adolescent Literature. Last year, she was recognized by the Maryland State Advisory Council as a Leader in Gifted and Talented Education award recipient.
For Hopkins, any career recognition she receives is dedicated to her students. “I always tell my colleagues that I do what I do every day because it’s my passion. I do not see it as a ‘job’ because I look forward to each new day with my students. They are my heart. And to receive recognition for doing something that I love seems unfair in some ways, but tremendous and honorable at the same time,” Hopkins said.
Adams just sees his language arts teacher as a valuable person in his life. “If you ever get the chance to meet with her or just talk with her for one minute, you will walk away with something of value. She is truly amazing,” he said.
As the Charles County Teacher of the Year, Hopkins is one of 24 state finalists eligible for the Maryland Teacher of the Year Award. The Maryland State Department of Education will select and announce the Maryland Teacher of the Year award recipient later this year. Hopkins will be honored by the Board of Education at its June 12 meeting.
Hopkins has a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from Kutztown University and a master’s degree in secondary English and literature from Walden University.
Charles County Public Schools provides 26,900 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 36 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Dr. Patricia Vaira, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 coordinator (employees/adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.