Patapsco High School & Center for the Arts educator Sean McComb fondly recalls a high school English teacher who led him to see the world differently through books and a mentor from the student-run cable station who helped him host his own weekly sports show.
On Monday, McComb, 29, was honored as Baltimore County's 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year for, among other things, being an example of one who inspires and supports his students.
"The teachers that I had in 10th, 11th, 12th grade were the models, and what they did for me made me believe it was possible to do that for other people," said McComb, a Joppa resident who is an English teacher and coordinates a college-prep program, AVID.
Their support, he said in a video accompanying his nomination, came at a time when the environment at home turned school into a sanctuary.
Now it's McComb who shepherds students through high school and allows them to pursue their passions.
He said it's been a "blessing" to be able to meet AVID students as freshmen and watch them adjust to high school over the course of their four years.
"The power of teaching is about inspiration, and this individual, through our investment in our AVID program, has truly given that opportunity to the students at Patapsco High School," Superintendent Dallas Dance said.
In addition to numerous gifts and prizes from local businesses as well as a prime parking spot at Patapsco High — where McComb's wife, Sarah, teaches social studies — McComb will go on to represent Baltimore County in the state Teacher of the Year competition.
Other teachers who were finalists for the honor included Kay Soonfah-Senior, a Spanish teacher at Cockeysville Middle; Lynn Detter, a fourth-grade teacher at Riderwood Elementary in Towson; Cara Detwiler, a fourth-grade teacher at Johnnycake Elementary in Westview; and Andrea Bissell, a math teacher at Chesapeake High in Essex.
Baltimore County also named its first Principal of the Year on Monday. Fort Garrison Elementary Principal Karen Harris was given the honor out of a group of five other finalists, including Perry Hall High Principal George Roberts.
Harris, of Reisterstown, was nominated for Teacher of the Year in 1997 when she taught at Chatsworth Elementary in Reisterstown. She also served previously as principal at Perry Hall and Pot Spring elementaries.
Harris told the audience that just as much as she guides her teachers, she learns from them. She sees parallels between the teacher-student relationship and principal-teacher relationship.
"I think it's all about relationships, too, and that's the same with teaching," she said. "It's relationships with children and teachers and the parents and the community, and building those connections.
"When you do that people will do everything for you because you've made the effort to just connect with them," Harris said. "When teachers do that, they'll have children who just rise to the occasion."