EASTON — Each year, Talbot County Public Schools honors teachers and support staff through the Teacher of the Year and Support Staff of the Year Program.

This provides the opportunity to recognize outstanding educators who have innovative ideas, focus positive attention on education and demonstrate superior commitment to students. Any member of the community may nominate teachers or support staff for these awards.

David Cherry was selected as the 2020-2021 TCPS Teacher of the Year.

Cherry currently teaches algebra II and precalculus at Easton High School. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics with a teaching certificate from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Education with a concentration in building positive classroom communities from LaSalle University. He holds advanced professional certificates in mathematics 7-12 and middle school: mathematics 4-9.

He has an open door tutoring policy throughout the entire school day, sets weekly class and student data goals, and provides after-school tutoring. He serves the school community on the Spirit Committee, the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Committee, and the Textbook Review Committee.

Prior to joining TCPS, Cherry taught math at Cambridge South Dorchester High School, where he held many leadership roles, led professional development, assisted in writing the mathematics curriculum and coached varsity soccer. He was nominated for TCPS Teacher of the Year in 2018-2019, was a Dorchester County Public Schools First Class Teacher of the Year Nominee and a Cambridge-South Dorchester Teacher of the Month.

“Mr. Cherry has been recognized as a professional development leader and a resource for his peers and the community, and has demonstrated consistent and effective collaboration with parents and stakeholders,” EHS Principal J. Kirk Howie said. “It is my sincere belief that he understands key education issues and possesses a strong working knowledge about outreach and advocacy techniques and practices that can effect real change in the K-12 education community.”

Tasha Aikens was selected as the 2020-2021 TCPS Support Staff of the Year.

Aikens has been a special education instructional assistant for Talbot County Public Schools since 2002, with the past five years being at Easton High School. She provides support to both the classroom teacher and case manager in classrooms and self-contained settings. Her work includes helping to implement plans and programs related to attaining academic and functional skills for students with mental, physical and/or emotional learning challenges. She assists students in daily specials and general education settings, helps them to develop social skills outside classroom settings and collects data for Individual Education Plan goals and objectives.

“To Tasha, working with EHS’ ‘exceptional warriors’ is not just a job, it is her purpose. She has shown me what it means to truly be an advocate for the special needs community, and inspires every student, and colleague, to reach their full potential,” Jessica Scott wrote in her recommendation letter. “As a colleague, Tasha has been unbelievably supportive professionally and personally. Her ability to work well with a team and her respectful nature, makes her the glue that holds the classroom together. She makes every environment fun and comforting to not only the students, but her colleagues and friends as well.”

Aikens’ professional experience includes working for the Easton Family YMCA Camp Lazy Days program for children with special needs and Easton Daycare. In addition to her full-time job, she is active in the community, working with youth through Building African American Minds, and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity Choptank, Youth Dance Ministry and as a Sunday School teacher at Emmanuel Deliverance Center. She also is certified in CPR, LAMP and Trellis supporting autistic children.

Aikens has received recognition for her commitment to students throughout her career at TCPS, including the Instructional Support Staff Award, Applebee’s Support Staff of the Mont, and Staff Appreciation Awards from the Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee each year during her tenure.

“Both of these individuals exemplify the heart and soul of Talbot County Public Schools,” Superintendent Dr. Kelly Griffith said. “Mr. Cherry is committed to innovative and diversified instruction to meet the needs of his students in a dynamic and engaging environment.”

“Ms. Aikens has made it her lifelong mission to help students with special needs succeed in their school environment and in life,” Griffith said. “I congratulate these two outstanding educators on this well-deserved recognition.”

Griffith and Howie traveled to Cherry’s and Aikens’ residences to celebrate and present them with posters and yard signs.

“We received many thoughtful nominations for this year’s Teacher of the Year and Support Staff of the Year awards,” Griffith said. “The heartfelt testimonies show the dedication of our amazing TCPS team members, and we welcome the opportunity to recognize these outstanding educators.”

Other Teacher of the Year finalists were Leslie Beveridge, first grade, Chapel District Elementary School; Daniel Brundige, sixth to eighth grade social studies and language arts, Easton Middle School; Jennifer Childress, third grade teacher, Chapel District Elementary School; and Heather Orr, second grade, Easton Elementary School.

Other Support Staff of the Year finalists were Theressa Hoskin, instructional assistant, kindergarten, White Marsh Elementary School; Tina Morris, drop-out prevention and re-engagement specialist, Student Services; Susan Redmond, instructional assistant, pre-kindergarten, White Marsh Elementary School; and Diane Vodak, instructional assistant, P3, Easton Elementary School-Dobson.

Cherry will represent Talbot County in the Maryland State Department of Education Teacher of the Year Program.

Chosen from the winners of all 24 school districts in the state, the Maryland Teacher of the Year traditionally participates in numerous national events, speaks to audiences throughout Maryland and beyond, and receives monetary awards, technology equipment and other prizes, including the gift of a new car from the Maryland Automobile Dealers’ Association.

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