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Athanasia Kyriakakos Named 2016-2017 Maryland Teacher of the Year

Statewide Winner is from Baltimore City

BALTIMORE – Athanasia Kyriakakos, an art teacher at Baltimore City’s Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School, tonight was named the 2016-2017 Maryland Teacher of the Year.

Dr. Karen Salmon, State Superintendent of Schools, made the announcement at the 26th Annual Teacher of the Year Gala. The event attracted scores of educators and dignitaries, including Comptroller Peter Franchot, Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith, Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Rep. John Sarbanes, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, and State Board President Andrew Smarick.

Sia–as she’s known to her colleagues–has been teaching in Baltimore city schools since 2011 and at Mergenthaler since 2014. Born in the U.S., her rich and varied background includes a decade of living in Greece as a child. She spent time teaching in Connecticut, studying and teaching at the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, and held positions in both Greece and Sweden. It was during her time in Connecticut just after receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the Maryland Institute, College of Art, that she found her passion: connecting students to the possibilities of art.

Each day, Sia works to expose her students to the world outside the school. “I believe in them and teach them to believe in themselves,” she said. “This is my greatest contribution to education. Every child who comes into my classroom learns through the journey of art that they can succeed in anything.”

Governor Larry Hogan and Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford congratulated Maryland’s new Teacher of the Year.

“Maryland’s success and our economic future is directly tied to the strength of our educational system, and great teachers make all the difference,” said Governor Hogan. “I congratulate Sia, and celebrate her outstanding work along with that of all of the finalists. They are having a positive effect on the lives of our children and are helping change Maryland for the better.”

Lt. Governor Rutherford said Sia’s teaching has illuminated new worlds for her students. “Sia provides her students with many gifts, and they leave her classroom with new ideas to make Baltimore and Maryland a better place to live,” he said. “Her principal calls her an advocate, ambassador and leader. But Sia says, quite simply, she’s a teacher.”

Sia describes her work as a collaboration with her students. “I give my students a toolkit of strategies to help them reach their potential in art and also in their lives,” she said. “Together, we become cultural ambassadors and break the boundaries of poverty, the restrictions set upon them by the adversity of living in an urban environment — and we do it all through art.”

Dr. Salmon said Sia not only believes that every student can learn and succeed; she does everything in her power to make it happen.

“Sia uses every tool in her toolbox, finding new ways to engage her students,” Dr. Salmon said. “It is clear that they respond to her creative methods. One of her former students wrote that Sia opened her eyes and gave her hope in the future. I cannot think of a better description of great teaching.”

Selecting Ms. Kyriakakos for the award was not an easy task for the judges. The other outstanding finalists were: Katrina Griffin, Anne Arundel County; Donna Miller, Calvert County; Anne Highfield, Cecil County; Michael Williams, Montgomery County; Tamara Forte, Queen Anne’s County; and Christy Briggs, Wicomico County.

The finalists were selected by a panel of judges from key Maryland education organizations representing principals, teachers, school boards, teacher unions, parents and higher education. Finalists were measured against a rigorous set of national criteria that include teaching philosophy and results, community involvement, knowledge of general education issues, and suggestions for professional and instructional improvement.

The 2016-2017 Maryland Teacher of the Year was announced at Martin’s West in Baltimore. The winner receives cash awards, technology equipment, national travel opportunities, and a new car valued at more than $25,000, donated by the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association.

Ms. Kyriakakos is the second Baltimore City teacher in a row to receive Maryland Teacher of the Year honors. She succeeds Ryan Kaiser, a teacher at The Mount Washington School.

Maryland has had a history of national success with its Teacher of the Year Program. Since 2006, Maryland has had three of its State Teachers of the Year selected as National Teachers of the Year.

Presenting sponsors of the Maryland Teacher of the Year Program are Comcast, the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, McDonald’s Restaurants of Greater Baltimore, Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems and NTA Life. Platinum sponsors are BGE, Lockheed Martin, Maryland Public Television, and Whiting-Turner Contracting Company.

The Maryland Teacher of the Year will go on to compete for the esteemed National Teacher of the Year Award, to be announced next April. The winner also will spend the coming year as a speaker and advisor in Maryland. The Maryland Teacher of the Year will be honored by the President at the White House next spring and participate in several national meetings and conferences.