Not many people are lucky enough to figure out what they want to do with their life when they are about 7 years old. Annemarie Simpson, Ph.D., a mathematics teacher at Maurice J. McDonough High School, is lucky. “I fell in love with teaching in second grade,” she said. “My second-grade teacher was able to instill into everybody this love of learning that was just amazing. Since second grade, I’ve wanted to be a teacher, and I never wavered.”
Simpson was named a finalist in the 2022 Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) Teacher of the Year program and is Charles County’s representative in The Washington Post’s Teacher of the Year program. At McDonough, she teaches precalculus, Algebra II, and Advanced Placement (AP) statistics.
Four years after being inspired to become a teacher, Simpson was in middle school when another teacher entered her life and gave her further direction. “In sixth grade, I had an amazing math teacher that just made learning math so much fun,” she said. “I decided in sixth grade to be a math teacher.”
While her sisters veered more into English classes, Simpson always had a head for numbers. “I’m totally a math kid. It makes sense to me,” she said. “What I liked about it is there was always an answer, and if the answer was wrong, the teacher could say, ‘Here’s why your answer is wrong,” and explain those mistakes.”
Simpson strives to be the type of teacher like those who inspired her. Jake Burgess, a 2020 graduate, credited Simpson as one of the teachers who made his “tumultuous” transition to high school easier. After joining the math team — of which Simpson is the sponsor —Burgess found a family of sorts at the team’s lunch meetings. “Mrs. Simpson created such a welcoming and friendly environment in those short, half-hour lunches,” he said. Simpson’s skills as a teacher were only amplified in the classroom. “The lessons were constantly innovative and interactive, transforming math into a tangible, comprehendible form,” Burgess said.
Simpson is a leader in the McDonough community, and one of the “go-to” people at the school for Principal Darnell Russell. “She is a master of the art and science of the profession, adapting to change at a moment’s notice and willing to pivot with grace and integrity,” Russell said.
She is known for her ability to connect with and inspire students even during virtual instruction in the 2020-21 school year, Maureen Mears, the parent of McDonough senior Danny Mears, said. “My son said that learning precalculus remotely [during the 2020-21 school year] was one of the hardest things he has done, but he excelled because of Ms. Simpson’s patience and grace,” Mears said.
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Simpson grew up in Portsmouth, Ohio, and earned her bachelor’s in mathematics from Pennsylvania State University. She received a master’s in math education from Florida State University, her Ph.D. in professional studies in education, and an Administrator I certificate from McDaniel College. When she graduated with her bachelor’s degree, there were not a lot of teaching opportunities available in Pennsylvania. She attended a job fair and learned about CCPS. At the time, a long-term substitute teacher was in the position at McDonough. Simpson said he was a great sub and willing to give it up if the school hired a new, young teacher. Simpson has been at McDonough ever since — more than 20 years.
“Charles County is my home. I’ve been at McDonough 20 years,” she said. “It would feel weird to leave. I guess I’m a lifer now.” Outside of the classroom, Simpson has been an adjunct math professor at the College of Southern Maryland, has assisted in writing core math curriculum for the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), and has written AP statistics and precalculus curriculum for CCPS. She is the sponsor for McDonough’s math team, chair of the school’s math department, and coaches the varsity swim team. She swam in high school and was at McDonough for about two years when she took an assistant coaching position was floated. Soon, she became the men’s and women’s varsity swim coach. In 2019, she was named the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference (SMAC) Swim Coach of the Year. Through coaching, she has built stronger relationships with students and their parents. “You get to know the kids on a different level,” Simpson said.
She was honored by the Board of Education in December 2017 as McDonough’s outstanding employee and in 2005 through the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative’s (SMECO) Outstanding Math and Science Teachers awards program. Simpson said she was shocked when she was named one of the five finalists for CCPS 2022 Teacher of the Year. “I think Charles County has amazing teachers,” she said. “There are some amazing teachers in this county, and to be narrowed down as one of the finalists is very shocking. Many, many people are deserving.” In addition to Simpson, the finalists included Morghan Hungerford, a second-grade teacher at Arthur Middleton Elementary School, who was named the CCPS Teacher of the Year for 2022. Other finalists this year were Ryan Amore, instructional resource teacher at J.C. Parks Elementary School; Barbara Anderson, kindergarten teacher at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School; and Brittany Thorne, a fifth-grade teacher at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School.
For Simpson, her love of learning pushes her to seek new opportunities and challenges that can be used to enhance her students’ experiences in the classroom. “I’m one of those people who love to learn. There’s always new research coming out and different strategies … the new technology out there … there is always something out there to learn,” Simpson said. It’s something she hopes she has instilled in her students. “I hope they don’t lose their love of learning,” she said. “I try to instill a love of learning and tell them, ‘You are capable of learning anything if you put your mind to it.’”
After more than two decades as a teacher, Simpson said she couldn’t envision leaving the field of education. “Teaching is a calling. It’s a rewarding profession,” Simpson said. “I could not imagine doing anything else.”