Celebrating Innovation

Group Photo of 2017 Celebrating Innovation Award Winners

Worcester County Public Schools is leading innovation with excellence. In that spirit, the school system is continuing its recognition program for which all employees can apply! The program "Celebrating Innovation" seeks to recognize any school system employee who implements innovative practices and/or processes which lead to evidence-based improvement. Please access the application below, which defines innovation for the purpose of this program and provides applicants with application requirements. The application is designed to be easy, but please be aware that some changes have been made to this year's application.

Program FAQs

What does innovation mean?

Innovation exists when a new practice or process is implemented and it results in evidence-based improvement.

What is Meant by New?

A practice or process is new when it has not been previously implemented by its facilitator (applicant) and when it is not considered standard, customary, common, or expected in Worcester County Public Schools or at your school.

Can you be more specific about results?

The school system encourages creative ideas around practices and processes. When a creative idea leads to a new practice or process that results in measurable growth (evidence-based improvement), that practice or process qualifies for consideration in the Celebrating Innovation Recognition Program. In other words, innovation is more than just a great idea; it is a great idea that yields positive outcomes.


2018 Honorees

Anne Cook, an eighth grade Social Studies teacher at Stephen Decatur Middle School, reinvigorated field trip excursions with her students. By utilizing SDMS’s own Bulldog mobile application, students and their families became active participants in cataloging the trip’s activities by “checking in” at historical locations, taking photos and posting about their experiences. This fostered greater student and parent engagement with the trips’ lessons.

Brian Cook, a sixth-grade ELA teacher at Pocomoke Middle School, designed a new afterschool program titled #EduDrones. The weekly afterschool program explored components of aeronautics and computer coding with Parrot Mambo drones. Students were able to design obstacle courses to scale using graph paper and actually build their courses for challenge courses for all students to fly through showing off each child's flying capabilities.

LaVerne Cray, Mary Anne Cooper, and Jen Spivey of Snow Hill Elementary School developed POP (Pause, Own it, Practice) meetings, which focused on strategies to develop social emotional wellness in their students. Through check in meetings with their teacher, skills lessons using curated literature and guided mindfulness, the POP meetings are making an impact on student discipline.

Chef Phillip Cropper, Culinary Arts teacher at Worcester Technical High School, implemented the use breakout boxes to enliven his instruction on pathogens and temperatures, a unit of study with which his students have struggled in the past. The breakout boxes required students to synthesize information found within the room to solve puzzles and problems to “break out” of the room and win. Student feedback was so positive that Chef Cropper has since developed three more lessons using this format.

A second-grade teacher at Buckingham Elementary School, April Eichelberger, found creative ways for her school to reduce its carbon footprint and become a Maryland Green School. Through her work, students were exposed to environmental science lessons as well as created service projects to benefit the environment. The lessons culminated in an afterschool event, Looking at Waste in a New Light, in which parents and the community were educated by the students on how by living sustainably, they can make a difference for the environment.

Pocomoke High School English teacher Nicholas Genovesi developed the school’s first-ever Literacy Night, which focused on celebrating all aspects of learning while offering a showcase of student work and performance. Through developing partnerships with local businesses and community organizations, the Literacy Night saw a rise in student, parent and community participation, with a majority of attendees expressing that they would like to attend more events like Literacy Night at the high school.

Worcester Technical High School Assistant Principal Thomas Hamill developed a practice designed to build awareness around teacher absence: sending “nudge letters”. Using comparative data from the AESOP system, the letters are designed to make teachers aware of patterns of absence as well as illustrate how their absences relate to overall averages. Since beginning this practice, WTHS has seen a 19% decrease in teacher absences from last year.

Brenda Hommel, a pre-calculus teacher at Stephen Decatur High School, has taken a elementary practice of utilizing simple manipulatives and applied at the high school level to give students a more concrete understanding of trigonometry concepts. Using dried spaghetti, paper plates and other manipulatives, students deepened their understanding of right angles and functional trigonometry, which resulted in higher assessment scores and students’ development of perserverance and grit.

Seventh grade math teacher Michelle Hrebik developed her 180-Classroom at Stephen Decatur Middle School. By installing whiteboards running the entire length of the wall space in her classroom, Michelle provided students a larger workspace for students to show the processes used to complete multistep math problems as well practice their mathematical thinking when posed open ended problems, sharing their different problem solving strategies with peers.

Cedar Chapel Special School Physical Education Teacher Zachary Johnson created a “Silent Disco Party” within his classroom, in which students used wireless headphones to give them control over the level of stimulation that they would be exposed to during the dance parties held within the physical education class. By personalizing each student’s experience during the Silent Disco, unsafe behaviors have decreased and students have expressed their enjoyment of the activity.

Art and Music teacher Mary Beth Lampman has instituted the use of sound therapy at Cedar Chapel Special School. The practice employs the vibrations of the human voice as well as objects that resonate -- tuning forks, gongs, Himalayan singing bowls -- to go beyond relaxation and stimulate healing. Through her program, students at CCSS participate in a group “sound bath” weekly, and students are provided opportunities to seek individualized attention as well through appointments.

Emergency Management and Homeland Security instructor Michael Levy saw an opportunity for students in his program at Worcester Technical High School to gain valuable real-world experience as well as a useful credential by integrating CERT training into his program. Through this partnership, each of his students received rigorous training from both himself and a FEMA certified instructor which led to students receiving their FEMA Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) credential and certifications in basic CRP, first aid, and basic AED usage.

Mindy Ouellet & Sara Braniecki from Stephen Decatur Middle School decided to boost health awareness both within the school and into the community beyond through the school’s biannual Health Fair. To that end, after receiving classroom instruction, seventh grade students held their own student-led Health Fair in conjunction with the school’s traditional community Health Fair. In doing so, students applied the knowledge gained to then educate others on a health topic of their choice. The student-led fair, along with strategic decisions and partnerships at the traditional fair led to higher parent and community attendance.

In order to further secure the school and ensure student safety, the administrative team of Ocean City Elementary School, Dawn Rogers and Julie Smith, implemented new procedures for student drop off and pick up. They consulted with stakeholders to draft the new procedures and created a communication plan to ensure all parents were aware of the new process. The new structure for student drop off and pick up has been fully Implemented with little disturbance and greater efficiency for all.

Aarti Sangwan, Biomedical Pre-Engineering teacher at Worcester Technical High School, infused gamification techniques in her classroom to transform her classroom culture and ensure students explore higher skills to analyze, evaluate and apply their knowledge. Through skits, vocabulary games and breakout boxes, her classroom has come alive, and students have positively responded to the different methods of gamification.

Recognizing the need to provide supplemental support for mathematics, Assistant Principal of Stephen Decatur Middle School Theresa Torpey creatively modified the school’s schedule to accommodate the addition of a Math Steps course to target math instruction for seventh graders who required the additional support. Using this new process, 44 seventh graders and 42 eighth graders have been able to provide math intervention without requiring additional personnel.