After a long year of classes, projects, and homework, the senior class of 2016 has decided: English Instructional Team Leader Ms. Lisa Vitali is this year’s Teacher of the Year. She, along with other Howard County high school Teacher of the Year recipients, will be honored this Thursday at the Board of Education.
In her 18 years at Mt. Hebron, Ms. Vitali has taught a variety of English-related subjects, including electives such as Speech and Theater Arts. I have been lucky enough to call her my teacher in two of those classes — Theater Arts my sophomore year and English 12 AP this year.
The announcement for Teacher of the Year, describing the mystery winner as someone who has a passion for learning and teaching lessons to her students, was made during third period classes on March 29. According to numerous students in the class, Ms. Vitali shed a few tears when she heard she had won the award.
“When the students take the time to think of me and bestow such an honor, it really means more than maybe they even realize that it does,” Ms. Vitali said. “There are so many excellent teachers they could have chosen, and I was very surprised to hear my name.”
Students all around Mt. Hebron were more than willing to give their reasons why Ms. Vitali was an excellent candidate and choice for this year’s winner.
“I’ve had her for Speech and English,” said senior Stephanie Bluhm. “I like how she makes things applicable to our actual lives and gives us a lot of freedom to be creative with the projects we do.”
Another one of Ms. Vitali’s senior students, Saikrishna Kalla, said, “She’s very honest and real. She incorporates her own experiences into our class and makes it really interesting to learn.”
Additionally, senior Carmen Bodziak believes she is truly prepared to take the English 12 AP exam in May due to preparation from Ms. Vitali.
Along with being a teacher (and being voted “Most Sarcastic” in past years for Teacher Superlatives), Ms. Vitali is the head coach for Mt. Hebron’s varsity tennis team. She played both tennis and water polo when she was younger and decided to take the reigns of the tennis team as a staff member at Mt. Hebron.
Senior Robert Jett has Ms. Vitali as both a coach and an English teacher.
“The reason why Ms. Vitali is such a good teacher is the same reason why she is a good tennis coach,” Jett said. “She relates to people in a way that doesn’t just make you feel comfortable, but that makes you feel like you can do better.”
Personally, being in two of her classes just was not enough for me. That is why last year, I decided to take on the role of Ms. Vitali’s aide. Let’s back it up a little to my freshman year when I first encountered Ms. Vitali. I was boarding the bus that the softball team shares with the tennis team to go to our away game. I saw that there were an abundance of tennis players, leading me to comment about there not being enough room. Ms. Vitali heard me, of course, and proceeded to scold me and probably hate me for the rest of the year.
With my luck, I had her for Theater Arts the following year. In that time, I grew to love Ms. Vitali’s sarcasm and personality as a teacher. She made sure I knew that she remembered our first encounter, though.
So just look how far we have come! Now, not only do I love her English class, but I also find myself looking forward to my aiding period so that I can hang around her even more. In all honesty, Ms. Vitali has become someone I truly value and respect as a person and is someone I see myself keeping in contact with even after graduation. The impact she has had on my high school career has been more beneficial than she probably knows, and I am glad to call her a friend and someone I look up to (try not to cry).
Overall, Ms. Vitali has proven her place as Teacher of the Year. How does she do it?
“I feel like most of the time I act like a fifteen-year-old boy, so I guess that’s the secret,” Ms. Vitali admits. “A little bit of immaturity goes a long way.”