La Plata High in­struc­tor named Charles County Teacher of the Year

So­cial stud­ies teacher rec­og­nized for pas­sion, use of tech­nol­ogy

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

For La Plata High School teacher Kevin Barry, one of the big­gest joys in teach­ing is help­ing stu­dents to un­der­stand the con­nec­tions in time and place.

“I love telling sto­ries through maps, and get­ting an idea of what our place is in the world. What has hap­pened

in the past is shap­ing our to­day,” the so­cial stud­ies teacher said. Barry said he helps stu­dents find con­nec­tions be­tween past and present events, such as World War II and the War on Ter­ror. “It’s about mak­ing those con­nec­tions,

to link past events to­gether to mod­ern times.”

Barry has been named Charles County’s fi­nal­ist for the 2016 Wash­ing­ton Post Teacher of the Year Award.

For­merly the Agnes Meyer Teacher of the Year pro­gram,

the award pro­gram now rec­og­nizes one teacher from each par­tic­i­pat­ing school district as a fi­nal­ist. One over­all re­cip­i­ent for a re­gional award is ul­ti­mately cho­sen by the news­pa­per.

Ac­cord­ing to award lit­er­a­ture

from the Post, the goal of the award is “to rec­og­nize ex­cel­lence in teach­ing, to en­cour­age cre­ative and qual­ity in­struc­tion and to con­trib­ute in a sub­stan­tive way to the im­prove­ment of ed­u­ca­tion in the Wash­ing­ton metropoli­tan area.”

Barry was nom­i­nated for the award by a team of staff mem­bers at La Plata High.

Les­lie Schroek, co­or­di­na­tor for the nom­i­na­tion team, said it did not take long for the team to set­tle on Barry.

“He is an ex­em­plary teacher who ex­ceeds all of the nom­i­na­tion cri­te­ria. He is pas­sion­ate about his sub­ject mat­ter which comes through in his in­ter­ac­tions with stu­dents. United States his­tory, AP hu­man ge­og­ra­phy, and com­puter sci­ence come alive for his stu­dents be­cause he con­tin­u­ally in­cor­po­rates in­struc­tional tech­nol­ogy in his lessons,” the com­mit­tee wrote in its nom­i­na­tion let­ter.

“When I was told I was go­ing to be nom­i­nated, I was taken aback,” Barry said. “It never crossed my mind that I was do­ing any­thing spe­cial, I was just do­ing my job. Just like ev­ery­one else in this build­ing. We’re a team.”

Barry said his in­ter­est in his­tory be­gan at a young age, in­spired by his fa­ther.

“My fa­ther was a big his­tory guy, and when­ever we’d take road trips, he’d tell me the his­tory of what­ever place we’d go to,” Barry said. “He taught me that un­der­stand­ing of where you came from was re­ally im­por­tant. He was also huge into ge­neal­ogy, all of this re­search trac­ing our fam­ily back, where we came from, and that just fas­ci­nated me — why are we who we are? And teach­ing his­tory gives me an op­por­tu­nity to tell those same sto­ries.”

Barry came to La Plata High School af­ter grad­u­at­ing from Western Michi­gan Univer­sity in 2006 and has been there ever since.

In­cor­po­rat­ing tech­nol­ogy into the class­room is a ma­jor goal for him.

“In the class­room, so of­ten, we have tons of great re­sources, but so of­ten they’re just left unused. So I’ve found ways of in­fus­ing them into the class­room,” Barry said. “I look at tech­nol­ogy as a way of giv­ing them job skills, and it al­lows them to sep­a­rate them­selves when they get to col­lege be­cause they’ve had ex­pe­ri­ence with more than just Google searches.”

He also serves as the school’s telep­res­ence co­or­di­na­tor, fa­cil­i­tat­ing use of video­con­fer­enc­ing tech­nol­ogy with in­di­vid­u­als and groups across the country and around the world.

“It’s such a great tool; it al­lows us to ex­pand the walls of the class­room,” Barry said. “It could be a col­lege lec­ture from a pro­fes­sor, it could be a sim­u­la­tion ac­tiv­ity. For our busi­ness de­part­ment we’re do­ing a ca­reer spot­light se­ries … it’s al­low­ing the kids to ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing they oth­er­wise would never have been ex­posed to.”

He said the telep­res­ence tech­nol­ogy has al­lowed stu­dents to par­take in very top­i­cal dis­cus­sions.

“Last year dur­ing the ebola scare, we were able to find a vi­rol­o­gist [in Kansas] who was able to ex­plain the whole sit­u­a­tion to stu­dents of not only how the dis­ease works, how it spreads, and how to con­tain it,” Barry said.

In ad­di­tion, Barry works with, a na­tional non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­motes com­puter pro­gram­ming ed­u­ca­tion in schools, and serves as the school’s com­puter sci­ence teacher.

“I’ve got­ten to travel across the country, to work with teach­ers on teach­ing com­puter sci­ence,” he said.

Barry said he hopes to in­spire stu­dents in the same way other teach­ers in­spired him.

“It’s about the kids. In el­e­men­tary, mid­dle and high school, there were mo­ments when I strug­gled,” he said. “But there were teach­ers who not only helped me, but they were so cre­ative in in­spir­ing me to want to learn more. I want to give that same op­por­tu­nity now.”


Kevin Barry speaks with stu­dents dur­ing a les­son. Barry was named the 2016 Charles County fi­nal­ist in the Wash­ing­ton Post’s “Teacher of the Year” award.

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