Wednesday morning began fairly routine for English teacher LaQuisha Hall at Carver Vocational Technology High School. She was prepping her class with warm up writing exercises when Baltimore City Public School (BCPSS) CEO Sonja Santelises walked in with a camera crew and flowers to announce that she had been selected as the 2018 Teacher of the Year.
“I did receive notice that Wednesday was the day of the announcement, but you never know when or if it’s you,” Hall said. “I was on edge most of that morning just wondering. When I saw them come through the door, I got my answer.”
The 15-year teaching veteran has been with BCPSS for her entire career and at Carver since 2015. For the past two years, Hall assisted some of her English students with publishing two books relating to social justice—A City Unspoken: A Dose of Our Reality and One Nation, One Heart.
More than a decade ago, Hall created a mentoring and etiquette academy for young girls to help build self-confidence and give back to their communities. Queendom T.E.A. has served more than 1,000 young women since beginning in 2008.
“As much as I want them to gain academic skills, it’s also important to see them develop socially and emotionally to be great people,” she said. “So, it’s important for me to empower them in that way so they can also be empowered in the classroom to learn."
Hall says that she is honored to be recognized by the school district for her work and is grateful to be surrounded by students who are ready to learn and administrators who support her efforts. She is now in the running to be awarded Maryland’s teacher of the year in the statewide competition, which brings back memories of her days in the pageant circuit.
“I’m not foreign to competition, I am a former pageant queen many times over and we often went through this similar process,” she said. “The difference is the people I’ll be surrounded by. They are all great educators and motivators and it makes me feel good to be among people like that.”
To celebrate her award, Hall opted to pass on the celebratory champagne toast and instead created a Facebook page so that she could create a space for those who wanted to discuss education with her. Also, as part of the award, she will receive a cash prize and classroom supplies provided from the Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke Endowment Fund at the Fund for Educational Excellence. She will also throw out the first pitch at the Orioles game on May 10. She says she is grateful for the love she gets from her students and hopes that she leaves a lasting impression on their lives after they move on from her class.
“One of the things that I say a lot is that they can’t let their crown tilt,” she said. “I want them to be reminded that the ground that they walk on should be gold and not concrete—they should be walking at a higher place. Maybe people don’t expect them to be there, but that is their divine placement.”