Humans of Calvert County, Sarah Merranko & Anita Santoyo

When I saw the car pull into my driveway, I just ran out of my house screaming like a fool! I didn’t even put my shoes on!

I was giggly and just overcome with emotion and adrenaline and excitement and it was really special to share and watch my daughter run out of the house and celebrate it with me and to see my husband standing there holding my son and our dog was running around. I also was awarded from Bayside Toyota a two year lease on a bright blue vehicle! A Rav 4! If you live on the south end of route 4, you are going to see me driving around for the next two years!

The honor is teacher of the year. It’s an incredible honor. I’m almost speechless because there is so many fantastic educators in Calvert County and I’m honored that my colleagues nominated me to represent Calvert High School.

My platform is really about student and staff health and wellness and what we can do to combine the academic side but also really foster that social emotional learning piece that a lot of our kids are struggling with now especially more than ever in this new crisis were in.

I’ll be the teacher representative from Calvert County and I’m going to continue my platform on student and staff health and wellness and helping administrators and teachers see the importance of kid’s health and our own health and taking care of ourselves so that they’re better prepared for learning and academic success. That is what I am most excited about in all honesty. I am thrilled that I am going to have this opportunity to speak with state representatives that make policy and educational decisions and really just advocate hard for our students and their health and the health and wellness of our staff that are working.

When Dr. Curry asked me to say a couple words, I had these moments in my head of all the people, the village that’s behind me that has led me to where I am today. And that really starts with my mom. She got pregnant with me young and just put all of her effort into raising us and our family and taking care of us and making sure that we were doing the right things and so I just always wanted to make her proud I guess.

And then I went to college and I met my husband there. And he’s just been a great supporter and to build our family and to move from Buffalo to here and know nobody.

And to have teachers that were huge mentors of mine as they had faith in this young college grad.

For me, really is about breaking down barriers. No matter who you are, or what background you come from, or what hand you’ve been dealt, every individual has the opportunity to be great. They have the opportunity to be successful. And it’s helping the student tap into it, it’s helping them to see their light, to feel empowered, to have that self advocacy that they belong, they have a purpose, their life is meaningful.

And when you start breaking things down into that level, you can forge this connection with them, this bond, and it just helps create this relationship that they have somebody in their corner that wants the best for them and is there to support them through thick and thin. That if they fall, I’ll be there to help pick them back up. That failure is not the end. Failure is an opportunity for growth. It’s an opportunity to learn. So let’s take whatever happened, whatever the situation was, let’s own our consequences and then let’s move forward from there. And I think that that’s a big piece of it, that they know in my area in the fitness studio, it is completely judge free and I’m there to support them and to help them find out who they want to be and become their best selves.

It was sad because I didn’t feel like we really had that moment to truly say goodbye, especially to the seniors. And this senior class is wonderful, there are so many amazing students and I feel terrible that they lost on the end of their senior year which should have been celebrations upon celebrations for them. All students are experiencing loss right now and we have to help them navigate through this in a healthy way.

I’m a huge extrovert. So when we went into this lockdown, those first two weeks, through the end of March, I was struggling to navigate what is this going to look like for me? How am I going to keep myself healthy, sane and well because if I’m not healthy, sane and well, it’s a snowball effect. It will translate into how I interact with my family and how I now respond to my students. So I’ve actually been teaching four times a week through my fit with Fridge account and I’ve been teaching virtually. I’ve been teaching fitness classes on Mondays, Wednesday’s, and Friday mornings at 7am and Thursday afternoons at 2. And that has helped because it’s allowed me to stay connected to the community. It’s allowed me to stay connected to people that help keep me creative and help me have positive energy. We average between 40 to 52 people. So even though we’re not together physically, having that sense of community, it’s a great way that I start my day through that work out and then I can tune in to what everybody else needs during the day when I take care of myself in the morning.

As a high strung, high energy, type A personality kind of person, the way I manage my emotions best is through movement. It just helps me. It helps me settle my brain, figure out what ideas are going on up there and put them down into a plan.

The kids. The students. They give me life. They give me energy. They give me passion. They keep me creative. I say to them a lot that you guys help me grow and learn just as much as I hope I do for you. So I don’t see it so much as I’m a teacher leader, I see it more as a partnership that we’re growing together. They keep me young and fresh and energized because our youth, there is so much good in them.

I’m so excited to be a part of this community, and then to be recognized for the efforts.

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...