Prince Street Elementary School’s Dustin Thomas, 36, a teacher of Physical Education, Health and World Music, was named the 2021-2022 Wicomico Teacher of the Year in a ceremony held atop Salisbury’s Downtown Parking Garage.
A 2003 graduate of Wicomico High School, Thomas earned an associate’s degree from Wor-Wic Community College, and received his bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and master’s degree in Applied Health Philosophy from Salisbury University.
He has been a Physical Education teacher for Wicomico County Public Schools since 2011, initially at Glen Avenue Elementary and at Prince Street Elementary since 2014.
This is not the first time that Thomas has been recognized as an outstanding teacher. He has been recognized with the McEducator Award and the Wicomico Schools’ Extra Mile Award, and as Elementary Wellness Coordinator of the Year and Hertrich’s Cash for Class Community Choice Winner.
While coaching Nothin’ But Net, writing curriculum, and volunteering at community benefit races, he started Futsol. As founder of Rhythm and Roots and creator of a World Music class, he and his scholars have been recognized by local, state, and national organizations.
“I am very proud to announce the name of Prince Street’s Dustin Thomas as our 2021-2022 Wicomico Teacher of the Year,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Donna Hanlin, who made the announcement with Board of Education Chairman N. Eugene Malone Jr.
“Mr. Thomas has been creative and innovative and effective in the classroom and beyond, extending his scholars’ experiences and expectations. He will be a wonderful representative of Wicomico teachers in the Maryland State Teacher of the Year Recognition Program,” Hanlin said.
As Wicomico Teacher of the Year, Thomas represents the outstanding staff of Prince Street Elementary and the nearly 1,300 teachers of Wicomico County Public Schools. For the next year, he will represent Wicomico County Public Schools in the Maryland Teacher of the Year Recognition Program, which includes Maryland State Board of Education recognition in June and the Maryland Teacher of the Year Gala in the fall.
Wicomico has three former Maryland Teachers of the Year working in the school system on behalf of students: Aaron Deal, Bonnie Walston and April Todd.
The 2020-2021 Wicomico Teacher of the Year, Hemalatha Bhaskaran of James M. Bennett High, was Wicomico’s most recent state finalist for Maryland Teacher of the Year.
Those honored at the 2021 Wicomico Teacher of the Year Celebration were:
The event was held on the top level of the Downtown Parking Garage to take advantage of the Downtown Salisbury views and to hold the event outdoors at a time when indoor events are still strictly limited.
There were advantages to the unique setting: Schools decorated reserved spaces for their Teacher of the Year semifinalists and Rising Stars, and after the announcement of Teacher of the Year at 6 p.m., a festive “ride by” parade took place on the streets below the parking garage so that the teachers could watch.
Top Teachers 2021
The Wicomico Teacher of the Year Recognition Program spotlights not just the year's most outstanding teacher, but all Wicomico educators who demonstrate outstanding leadership, a commitment to excellence, dedication to teaching the children of the community, and professional achievement. Many teachers were nominated.
After rating reviews by administrators and supervisors, these 27 semifinalists were selected for 2021:
Beaver Run Elementary: Kristina Powell, Grade 1.
Bennett Middle: Dawn Littleton, Art.
Charles H. Chipman Elementary: Patricia Sims, Kindergarten.
Choices Academy: Donna Chalmers, Online Lab Instructor.
Delmar Elementary: Lisa Littleton, Grade 2.
East Salisbury Elementary: Kirsten Biddle, Grade 3.
Fruitland Intermediate: Anna Krider, Special Education.
Fruitland Primary: Kelsey Murphy, Grade 1.
Glen Avenue Elementary: Jenna Purnell, Grade 4.
James M. Bennett High: Ann Schuchart, Family & Consumer Sciences.
Mardela Middle and High: Patricia Baer, Geometry & Algebra.
North Salisbury Elementary: Christy Tawes, Grade 3.
Northwestern Elementary: Nadia Peterson, Grade 1.
Parkside High: Brittany Wolske, Biology.
Pemberton Elementary: Shelly Gilmore, Prekindergarten.
Pinehurst Elementary: Jodi Moore, Reading Intervention.
Pittsville Elementary and Middle: Jessica Smith, School Library Teacher & Media Specialist.
Prince Street Elementary: Dustin Thomas, Physical Education, Health & World Music.
Salisbury Middle: Katie Serenyi, Grade 7 Math.
West Salisbury Elementary: Angel Wright, Grade 2.
Westside Intermediate: Kristen Ballard, Special Education.
Westside Primary: Danielle Thompson, Kindergarten.
Wicomico High: Stephanie McCoy, CTE Interactive Media.
Wicomico Middle: Lillian Hoffman, Band Director.
Willards Elementary: Mary Lynn Mather, Kindergarten.
Birth to Five: Pamela Mills, Special Education.
English Language Support Center: Beth Kaplan Wolff, ESOL
In April, semifinalists interviewed with a blue-ribbon judging panel, participated in a public speaking challenge called a “fishbowl,” and completed a writing prompt. Scores from each of these steps as well as the evaluations were compiled to determine the four top-scoring teachers, who were announced as the finalists:
Dustin Thomas, the highest-scoring finalist, was named the 2021-2022 Wicomico Teacher of the Year.