Craik Elementary instructor named CCPS Teacher of the Year
Will compete for state title in fall
Jillian Durr’s third grade students are “busy as bees,” and for her work in the classroom, this “queen bee” has been named Charles County Public School’s 2016 Teacher of the Year.
Durr, who is in her ninth year of teaching at Dr. James Craik Elementary School, will go on to compete against candidates from each school district in the state in the Maryland State Department of Education’s competition to determine the Maryland Teacher of the Year, the winner of which will be announced next fall.
Last month, Kevin Barry of La Plata High School was chosen by the Washington Post as its 2016 Charles County Teacher of the Year, a separate competition formerly known as the Agnes Meyer Distinguished Teacher Award.
Durr’s classroom is filled with bee images; Durr said she began using bees as a metaphor in her classroom during her time student teaching and has continued to do so ever since.
“I have two goals in my classroom, for the students to be sweet and hardworking, like the honey bee,” Durr said. “I tie it into the classroom. This is our hive, we need to work together. We need to always be trying our best, be hardwork- ing, but at the same time, we need to make sure we are respectful of others and respectful of ourselves, and I feel that those two things will help the kids remember, and it’s a fun analogy for them as well.”
Durr, a Pennsylvania native, graduated from what is now Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., in 2007. When she came to teach at Craik that year, she intended to only teach one year, then move back to Pennsylvania, but she said
she fell in love with the school and stayed.
“The plan was I was just going to stay one year and teach, but I fell in love with the school and the whole county and the area, and now, nine years later, here I am,” Durr said. “I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”
Durr taught second grade her first year, but moved to third grade at the advice of her principal at the time. Durr said she especially likes being able to teach third grade.
“I just love it. So many studies show [third grade] is the most important grade for students to do well in and really flourish, and so I feel like this is exactly where I need to be,” Durr said.
Durr said she has wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember.
“My parents say that my first day home from kindergarten, I was talking about school and said that I wanted to be a teacher,” Durr said. “That’s one thing my parents said I’ve never once changed my mind from.”
Durr said her own teachers helped inspire her and mold her into becoming a teacher herself.
“I just lucked out in having such amazing teachers who fostered such an interest in learning in me that I just couldn’t wait for an opportunity to be able to do that for other kids,” Durr said.
Craik Principal Debra Calvert said Durr was nominated by the employee recognition committee, which is composed of staff members.
“I’m really excited about her receiving this award. She is really deserving of this recognition,” Calvert said. “It was very easy to see from the beginning of my tenure here that she is a fantastic teacher. She sets very high expectations for her students, but she works to help them achieve those expectations.”
Durr said she is honored and humbled by the Teacher of the Year recognition.
“There are so many amazing teachers in this school, so when [Principal Calvert] said she wanted to nominate me, I was shocked,” Durr said. “I just feel that every single teacher at this school is wonderful and deserves this, and even at the county level, we are just so blessed to have so many amazing teachers.”
Durr said one of the greatest delights of being a teacher is being able to hear from her former students who often come back and tell her what they are doing. Her first students are now in the middle of high school.
“I always look forward to those updates,” Durr said.
Durr said she is working towards completing her master’s degree in administration and hopes to become a school administrator one day.
“I still want to be a classroom teacher for some time, I’m not ready to give that up yet,” Durr said. “But I feel if I can be an administrator, I’ll have the ability to affect more students than just my classroom. I’d have the ability to affect the whole climate, have a positive impact on every classroom.”
Durr said she sees her role as teacher as a facilitator of learning.
“I provide them with the topic and the resources, but then they take it to a whole new level,” Durr said. “By creating the environment, the learning happens on its own.”
Jillian Durr, a nine-year teaching veteran at Dr. James Craik Elementary School, helps Emmalyn Fetters come up with ideas for a writing assignment. Students pretended to be broadcasters reading from a news report about the Chesapeake Bay. Durr, a third-grade teacher, was named the 2016 Teacher of the Year.
Jillian Durr, left, is interviewed by her students Jay Bivens, center, and Heidi Danielson for a writing assignment during which students acted as broadcasters. Durr, a third-grade teacher at Dr. James Craik Elementary School, was named the 2016 Charles County Teacher of the Year.
Nicolas Reid, left, goes over an assignment with his teacher, Jillian Durr, who was named the 2016 Charles County Teacher of the Year.