Montgomery County teacher finalist for statewide teacher of the year award


Jane Lindsay, an 8th-grade teacher at John Poole Middle School, has been named one of seven finalists for the 2014-2015 Maryland Teacher of the Year award. (Courtesy of Montgomery County Public Schools/Courtesy of Montgomery County Public Schools)

When Jane Lindsay mentions that she is a middle-school teacher, some people groan. Others react with sympathy.

“It’s such a murky time of life,” Lindsay said. “But what I don’t think people realize is that it is in­cred­ibly dynamic and energizing to be in a middle school.”

Lindsay finds it inspiring. In her 23rd year as an educator in Montgomery County schools, she talks passionately about teaching her eighth-graders to write. She emphasizes the need to meet young teenagers where they are, to make learning feel relevant, to offer respect.

“These are really incredibly transformative years,” said Lindsay, 47.

Lauded for her connection with students and her teaching skills, Lindsay was named Thursday as one of seven finalists for Maryland Teacher of the Year. She had previously been named Montgomery’s Teacher of the Year.

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For the past decade, she has taught at John Poole Middle School in Poolesville, where she is head of the English and reading department.

Her goals are far-reaching.

“First and foremost, I want the kids to learn. I want them to learn about themselves. I want them to learn how to be successful. I want them to be happy in the classroom. . . . I want them to be literate, to be able to read, to write, to be able to use technology effectively, to see the beauty in the world.”

Her colleagues have praised her expertise and creative approaches. She has been a mentor to others and in recent years has helped her school prepare for the new Common Core State Standards in English.

Principal Robert Sinclair says he wandered into Lindsay’s class this week as students learned about figurative language — using tablets and smartphones and conferring with partners — and seemed completely engaged. “It was a real nice twist on what could have been a very dry and teacher-driven lesson,” he said.

Lindsay, the parent of three teenagers, started in Montgomery schools shortly after graduating from Catholic University. She says her mother — her role model — urged her to become a teacher.

Her first job, in 1988, at Strawberry Knoll Elementary School in Gaithersburg, sealed it. She also taught at Rocky Hill Middle in Clarksburg. “Talk about a pivotal decision,” she said. “I can’t even imagine. This is the job for me.”

The other finalists for the statewide honor are Kelly O’Hara of Cecil County; Erin Doolittle of Frederick County; Jody Zepp of Howard County; Anna Breland of Somerset County; Bridget Whited of Talbot County; and Courtney Leard of Washington County. A winner will be announced in October.

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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