Congratulations to Keith Wharton, Kent County Public Schools Teacher of the year

   Congratulations to Keith Wharton for being chosen as Kent County’s teacher of the year!  Dr. Wharton is known as a teacher who is willing to help any student or go out of his way to meet with parents, fellow teachers, and community members.  He is the music teacher at Kent County High School.  He has been with the school system for 27 years and before teaching at Kent County High School, he taught at Chestertown Middle School.

         I never had Dr. Wharton as a teacher, because I attend Cecil County Public Schools, but he has helped out with events with the music program in Cecil County.  From what I’ve seen of him, it seems like he is a good teacher.  Once again, congrats Dr. Wharton!

Below is an article at ran on Monday, April 13th in the Star Democrat, a newspaper in Easton, Maryland.

Wharton is chosen teacher of the year in Kent

PHOTO BY TRISHA McGEE
Keith Wharton (left) is the county�-s Teacher of the Year for 2008-09. Jeff Grafton, supervisor of human resources for the school district, made the presentation Monday.

Gail Manley top support person

By TRISHA MCGEE Special from The Kent News
Published: Monday, April 13, 2009 6:08 AM CDT
WORTON The words “my kids” and “family” are as much a part of the lexicon of high school music teacher Keith Wharton as “harmony,” “chord,” “pitch” and “duet.”

That’s because Wharton, 52, is as much a fatherly, friendly figure as he is an instructor to the band and chorus students at Kent County High School.

He “is the kind of person who will listen and contribute to conversations in a helpful and positive way,” said high school Principal Philip Keim.

He also is the kind of person who will alter his schedule, without any notice, to talk to a student, or a parent, or a colleague.

That’s what happened Monday afternoon when Wharton was headed into Chestertown for a reception at the board of education’s central office for him and the other seven nominees for Kent County Teacher of the Year.

The plan was for Wharton to zip home for a quick wardrobe change, i.e. a clean shirt and tie. But you know what they say about best-laid plans.

Someone stopped Wharton after school and talked for 25 minutes.

He made the reception, but was still wearing the soiled shirt he had on at the end of the school day.

It’s doubtful that anyone would have noticed, however, if Keim hadn’t mentioned it in his introduction of Wharton as the high school’s top teacher for 2008-09.

Keim was not trying to embarrass Wharton. Instead, he was underscoring the patience, generosity and humility that define Wharton.

“His entire demeanor promotes the school and our students,” Keim said of Wharton, who teaches chorus, marching band, jazz band, concert band, small ensembles, music appreciation and a freshman seminar.

“I not only commend him for being an innovative, creative teacher, but also for being a fine man who I feel great pride in listening to and taking advice from in matters regarding students.”

Wharton, who received a standing ovation Monday night at the school board meeting when he was named the countywide Teacher of the Year, admitted to being surprised.

That’s also part of his appeal. Wharton doesn’t know how good he is.

He slowly made his way from the back of the packed meeting room, stopping to shake the hand of last year’s winner Lori Armstrong of Rock Hall Middle School.

“I was a little caught off guard,” Wharton said in a telephone interview Tuesday morning. “I was listening to the presentations about the other nominees and thinking, ‘Wow, these guys are really good. We have some really talented people.'”

That includes Dr. Keith Wharton he received a Ph.D. in education leadership two years ago from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore among them.

A native of central New Jersey, Wharton has been teaching in Kent’s public schools since 1982 the first 14 years as a “traveling teacher,” spending half-a-day every day at Rock Hall Middle School and Kent County High School.

For six years after that he was full time at the middle school in Chestertown, where in addition to music he taught sixth-grade science and seventh-grade social studies.

He’s back at the high school with a schedule that is chock-full of music four 80-minute periods that change at the end of a semester, and one 50-minute full-year period. And, he couldn’t be happier.

What’s so special about music?

“It’s an expression of who you are, what you are,” said Wharton, who has been playing the trumpet since elementary school. “When you’re playing music in a group, it’s a totally different experience … It’s wonderful when it comes together.”

His teaching philosophy is simple.

“We take children where they are, and move them along. I want to make my kids successful, whatever it takes. … We treat each kid as if they’re part of a family. … We’ve developed a leadership program in our music program so kids have a say.”

Success, by Wharton’s definition, is not limited to music. He very proudly points to former students who are engineers, journalists, farmers, and watermen; mothers and fathers; husbands and wives.

Some have carved out careers in music. Eric Wright, for example, a former drum major at KCHS, is now the director of music at Queen Anne’s County High School. And when Wharton’s oldest son Brian now 21 and a senior at Lebanon Valley College was a student at QACHS, he was the drum major for Wright.

Another former student, Ronald Demby, is the band teacher at Sudlersville Middle School.

“I’ve worked with great kids,” said Wharton. ” … I have really nice kids.”

The competition for students has gotten stiffer over the years, according to Wharton, who is up against after-school athletics and jobs. But he continues to tinker with his programs practicing at night so kids can also play sports, for example to draw in as many students as possible.

There are 25 students in the marching band, and 21 in jazz band. Those numbers are expected to continue to increase with systematic changes that have been made at the middle school level, he said.

“We’ve turned the corner. Good things are on the horizon,” said Wharton. “We’re doing things that we couldn’t a couple of years ago. … Kids are playing music on a much more difficult level, and they’re more of them.”

But in a pattern that has not changed, kids continue to “rediscover” the music that was popular when their parents were teenagers.

A student recently came to Wharton talking about “cool music,” and pulled out an AC/DC compact disc.

And in its spring concert Tuesday, the jazz band performed music exclusively from the 70s and 80s.

Have you ever wondered how the ice cream for a school’s ice cream social gets into the building?

Or, who fills in when the school nurse is out sick?

Who requisitions supplies? Inventories textbooks? Pays the bills?

At Rock Hall Middle School, it’s the same person who answers the phone: secretary Gail Clark Manley.

She is a “workhorse,” Principal Gary McCulloch wrote in his letter of nomination. “She completes her work in a timely fashion, and is very quick to help others in a bind.”

For seven years, Manley, 50, has been the secretary in her hometown of Rock Hall. For 16 years before that, she was a secretary at the high school.

She loves her job.

“I get to see different people every day, and I don’t do the same thing every day,” she said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

“I know I’m going to start the day with the Pledge to the flag and announcements, and I’m going to call buses at the end of the day. What happens in between changes minute to minute.”

Manley, who is a product of Kent’s public schools, said her job is “to provide support all the way around for the principal and staff.”

McCulloch, in his letter of nomination, pointed to Manley’s professionalism and caring way.

“First impressions are very important. When you walk into the office of Rock Hall Middle School, you are first greeted with a smile and helped right away,” he wrote. “Above all, Mrs. Manley’s professionalism and her help with new teachers has helped our 2008-09 year run smooth. Thank you to a true colleague and friend.”

Copyright © 2009 – The Star-Democrat
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~ by Kyle Dixon on April 16, 2009.

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