CAMBRIDGE — Thomas “Trey” Mills III, chemistry teacher at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School is the Dorchester County Teacher of the Year for 2014-15 and Michael Pagliaro, an English teacher at North Dorchester High School, is Dorchester’s First Class Teacher of the Year for 2014-15.
Mills will represent Dorchester County in October in the statewide competition to select the Maryland Teacher of the Year. He will also be recognized May 20 by the Maryland State Board of Education. Among the prizes Mills received as Dorchester’s Teacher of the Year is free use of a vehicle from Hertrich of Easton for this year.
After growing up in the Linkwood area, Mills graduated from Cambridge-South Dorchester High School and then Washington College in 2001 with a degree in chemistry. He continued his studies at the University of Delaware with plans to be a research chemist. But instead he discovered how much he enjoyed teaching and got a job first as a math teacher at North Dorchester High School, and then as a chemistry and physics teacher at Cambridge-South Dorchester High School.
“I start each year with students coming in the classroom with preconceived ideas about chemistry. My belief is that through effective relationship-building and thorough instruction, I can show my students that chemistry is not as hard and uninteresting as they initially think,” Mills said.
Working with students in the Advanced Placement program at C-SD is among Mills’ accomplishments as a teacher, working with students to help them gain advanced credits by enrolling in college programs. Mills currently serves as the chairman of the faculty council of the AP program and has increased student participation and also helped to improve instruction.
Mills is active in a number of programs of Dorchester County Public Schools, including serving on the C-SD School Improvement Team and as a member of the county’s steering committee to encourage STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) studies.
His message for the teaching profession is, “Be the fluorine atom.
“I teach chemistry by connecting existing knowledge to chemical principals. I have such a passion for my subject area that the message to my profession must be chemistry-related. We must be like fluorine, a very special element on the periodic table,” Mills said.
“Fluorine is the most electromagnetic element on the periodic table, meaning that in a chemical bond, it draws the electrons it shares with another atom towards itself. Fluorine is also the most reactive element on the periodic table. It has the ability to form bonds with almost all elements on the periodic table due to its high reactivity.
“As teachers,” Mills said, “we can be fluorine atoms. We have the ability to form meaningful relationships with students, parents and colleagues of different backgrounds and beliefs ... Relationships with students and parents based on respect, honesty and care will catalyze high student achievement in our classrooms. Relationships with colleagues will bring forth opportunities for discussion, co-planning and professional development. As a result, we will become better practitioners. As fluorine does, we must use our commitment to student success to draw in those individuals who might be resistant to work with us, such as reluctant colleagues or a struggling student ready to give up,” Mills said.
First Class Teacher of the Year, Michael Pagliaro, an English teacher at North Dorchester High School, is a native of Montgomery County who received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
“The best thing about teaching is watching your students grow academically, emotionally, and socially. They won’t realize you had anything to do with it for another few years, but you know,” Pagliaro said, “and that’s a good feeling.”
NDHS Principal Lynn Sorrels said Pagliaro is able to get his students excited about literature. “His capacity to make learning relevant to adolescents is beyond the scope of a typical first-year teacher,” she said. “He can make 18th-century poetry relevant to a 15-year-old boy.”
Pagliaro was recently published in the English Journal, a publication for secondary school teachers, on the topic, “Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? Determining the Criteria for Graphic Novels with Literary Merit.”
This annual competition for Teacher of the Year and First Class Teacher of the Year was strongly supported through local business donations and contributions, including free dinners and other gift certificates, according to Dorchester school officials.
Mills was one of 11 nominees for Teacher of the Year. Other nominees were Melanie Coleman of South Dorchester School, Dawn Corkran of Hurlock Elementary School, April Ekroos of Warwick Elementary School, Benedita Gomes-Wani of North Dorchester High School, Kristin Guessfeird of Sandy Hill Elementary School, Rachel Hancheck of Maple Elementary School, Melanie Holliday of Choptank Elementary School, Claudia Johnson of Vienna Elementary School, Maeve Shay of Cambridge-South Dorchester High School and Julie Wagner of Warwick Elementary School.
Pagliaro was one of nine nominees for First Class Teacher of the Year. Other nominees were Lindsay Agnello, Patrick McLaw and Angela Bozman, all of Mace’s Lane Middle School, Myesha Daniels and Hilary Leas, both of Maple Elementary School, Zachary Krisher of Choptank Elementary School, Kalyne Linville of Sandy Hill Elementary School and Morey Weimer of Cambridge-South Dorchester High School.