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News Release, Charles County Public Schools

La Plata, MD- The Board of Education at its Feb. 11 meeting honored five Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) staff members for their commitment to the school system and student success. Each month, the Board honors staff members chosen by their school principals who demonstrate a commitment to teaching and learning.

Honored were Courtney Abell, Brooke Lyon, Erin Locke, Trina Short, and Amber Smith.

Abell is an English teacher at Maurice J. McDonough High School. Abell leads by example and helped to launch a vertical team planning approach among her English colleagues at McDonough. As part of vertical team planning, teachers are now using improved writing interventions to help struggling students. Because of this approach, McDonough students are increasing proficiency levels in English and language arts assessments. This model of team planning has also been adopted by English departments at other high schools. Abell recently launched a writing strategy called MEALS, which stands for the main idea, evidence, analysis, link, and summary. She uses this structure to teach students how to write and to answer written prompts. Her students enjoy using this strategy to guide writing, and Abell is seeing improvement among her students. She is often found collaborating with her peers during lunch and helping students in need of extra support. McDonough Principal Steven Roberts said Abell is a role model teacher. “She makes herself available to assist and support students so they are not left behind. Her high expectations and standards are the norms for work productivity with her students and the McDonough community,” Roberts wrote in a nomination letter.

The Board of Education at its Feb. 11 meeting honored five Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) staff members for their commitment to students and the school system. Honored, from left, were Erin Locke, special teacher at Arthur Middleton Elementary School; Amber Smith, special education teacher at Mary H. Matula Elementary School; Trina Short, instructional assistant at Gale-Bailey Elementary School; Brooke Lyon, physical education teacher at Milton M. Somers Middle School; and Courtney Abell, English teacher at Maurice J. McDonough High School.

Lyon is a physical education teacher at Milton M. Somers Middle School. She has been teaching at Somers for the past four years and is known among her peers as a leader. She demonstrates a positive attitude and students are inspired by her encouragement. Lyon goes out of her way to help any student in need and helps to organize special events. During her four years at Somers, Lyon has helped to organize the annual Turkey Trot, Hoops for Heart with the American Heart Association, Color Run and Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) flag football game. Lyon also has coached the middle school track team and assists with other teams when she can. She collaborates with her department team to plan a fun and engaging lessons for students. Lyon also supports curriculum writing and helps update lessons as needed. In a nomination letter, Somers Principal Sandra Taylor said Lyon is an exemplary teacher. “Her overall presence on the related-arts team contributes to its cohesiveness and instructional excellence. Lyon has a continual optimistic outlook on teaching and inspiring students,” Taylor wrote.

Locke is a special education teacher in the ACHIEVE program at Arthur Middleton Elementary School. The ACHIEVE program focuses on academics, communication and heightened independence for education, vocation and engagement for students with special needs. She exudes infectious energy and love for teaching that is evident in how she supports her students. From coordinating community-based instruction field trips for her students to providing structured supports throughout the school day, Locke makes learning accessible for all students. She collaborates with parents to ensure they have the necessary resources to support their child at home. Locke recently completed a program in autism studies to accompany her master’s degree in special education. She mentors colleagues and is the special education department team leader. Middleton Principal Ben Harrington credits Locke with the success of the ACHIEVE program. “Her advocacy for her students has been a contributing factor to the success of the ACHIEVE program at Arthur Middleton. The dedication she shows is motivating and encouraging to the staff she works with each day,” Harrington wrote in a nomination statement.

Short is a kindergarten instructional assistant at Gale-Bailey Elementary School. She works primarily in the SOAR program, a program that supports students with autism.  The program recently underwent a teacher transition and Short stepped in to help lead the classroom. She implemented routines, worked with students in small groups and collected student work and data. Short prides herself on creating positive relationships among her students. She also monitors the progress of students who have left her classroom to ensure their needs are met and they are successful. Her positive attitude shows in all that she does to support her colleagues and students. Short has also spent time in Gale-Bailey kindergarten teacher Jenna Goff’s classroom. According to Goff, Short jumps right in to handle any task in need of completion. “She is always willing to help with whatever can be done and she does so with a positive spirit. Trina is always patient and understanding with all of the children. I feel as though all kindergarten teachers should have a ‘Ms. Trina’ of their own,” Goff wrote in a nomination support letter.

Smith is a special education teacher at Mary H. Matula Elementary School and leads the SOAR program. Students in the SOAR program learn how to develop skills to achieve independence, academic and personal success. She shows compassion and cares for her students in all that she does. Smith exudes a positive attitude and works with each of her students to plan for their individual needs. She coordinates community-based field trips so her students can learn to communicate with others. She meets regularly with the special education team to plan for her students. Smith also works with related service providers to implement techniques they offer that could be effective with her students. Smith goes out of her way to ensure the needs of each student are met daily. She is willing to try new instructional methods and strategies to meets her students’ needs. Matula Principal Carrie Richardson said Smith is an exceptional educator. “Not only is Amber an extraordinary special educator for her students, but she also brings a wealth of information to our school, parents, and community. Amber is always smiling, is willing to try new things with her students and cares for all who she comes in contact with,” Richardson wrote in a nomination letter.

The Board each month honors CCPS students and staff members selected by their principal for recognition.


David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...