A third-grade teacher from Anne Arundel County credited with forging strong connections with students and colleagues has been named the 2020 Maryland Teacher of the Year.

Teresa Beilstein, a teacher at South Shore Elementary School in Crownsville, won the top honor Friday night, with state officials announcing her selection at a crowded gala in Baltimore. She edged out six other finalists.

Taking the stage, she described teaching as a calling.

“It is the intersection of my passion and my purpose,” she said, asking that all teachers in the room stand up and saying she wanted to recognize educators statewide.

Beilstein, 33, has worked at South Shore Elementary since she began as a teacher seven years ago. On Monday, fellow educators decorated her classroom with streamers, balloons and banners, and her third-graders were swept up by the celebration.

“My students are over the moon — so excited,” she said.

Of her approach, she said she believes in “being present” with her students and helping each to feel valued as an important voice. “Once they recognize the power of their voice, they start to believe in their potential,” she said.

State officials credited Beilstein — known at South Shore as “Miss B” — for sparking interest in learning.

“Teresa has brought innovation and excitement to her students and the entire school community, creating a culture of excellence which extends beyond her classroom,” State Superintendent Karen B. Salmon said in a statement. “She is truly an amazing teacher, who exhibits creativity and dedication to the profession and to her students.”

School officials in Anne Arundel County said Beilstein is viewed as a teacher who quickly builds relationships with colleagues, students and parents.

“It’s not just through the year,” Principal Stacy Shafran said. “It really is forever. Kids come back to school and want to see her.”

Beilstein earned a bachelor’s degree in economics at Loyola University Maryland and two master’s degrees, one in teaching and the other in organizational psychology, from Walden University. She is a national board-certified teacher in early-childhood education.

In Anne Arundel, she worked as part of a small team of county educators who wrote an elementary-level curriculum and assessments aligned to new science standards.

Shafran lauded Beilstein’s dedication to collaborating with other teachers at South Shore on what works best for students. “She is so reflective and such a cheerleader for our students and our whole staff,” she said.

Beilstein said she loves teaching third grade — a time when children are developing their personalities and humor and are “absolutely on fire for learning.”

“I could not dream of a better thing to come and do every day,” she said.

She said she believes “the secret ingredient to teaching and really imparting knowledge is to develop a personal relationship with each student.”

Other finalists for the award were Brandi Jason of Carroll County; Josie Perry of Cecil County; Michael Franklin of Frederick County; Paige Milanoski of Harford County; Madeline Hanington of Montgomery County; and Joshua Edwards of Washington County.

Beilstein will represent Maryland as she competes for National Teacher of the Year.