Wednesday, 07 May 2014 12:54

President Barack Obama honored Sean McComb as 2014 National Teacher of the Year during a ceremony at the White House last Thursday.
still from White House video

Patapsco’s McComb honored at White House

by Nicole Rodman

He’s done it again.
Nearly a year after being named Baltimore County Teacher of the Year, and seven months after taking the statewide award, Sean McComb has earned an even greater honor.
    Last Wednesday, the Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts English teacher was named 2014 National Teacher of the Year.
    At just 30 years old, McComb is one of the youngest National Teacher of the Year honorees ever.
    The announcement was made by the Council of Chief State School Officers during a segment on the television program “CBS This Morning.”
    Each year, the Council of Chief State School Officers selects a National Teacher of the Year from  all of the state Teacher of the Year winners.
    In January, McComb was named as one of four finalists for the national award.
    McComb’s award marks the third time since 2006 that a Maryland teacher has taken the nation’s top teaching honor.
    For McComb, the award is not just about him or his accomplishments.
    “My reaction [to the award] was shock and amazement, but also great pride that I would be able to share the honor with my family, friends, colleagues and students at Patapsco,” McComb told The Eagle.
    “We have a committed and inspiring staff at Patapsco, and this positive attention is so well-deserved for a dedicated, worthy community.”
    Though McComb is humble about the award, praise quickly poured in from across the state following last Wednesday’s announcement.
    “Sean McComb embodies what it means to be a teacher — tirelessly preparing his students for college or a career after high school, and setting a great example of the power of creative instruction taking place in classrooms all across our state,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a statement last week.
    “We are privileged to have him as a teacher at Patapsco and in Baltimore County, and we are happy to share his talents and his wisdom on a much larger stage,” Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) Superintendent Dr. Dallas Dance said of McComb, adding, “Now the nation is his classroom.”
    At Patapsco, McComb’s colleagues and students could not be prouder.
    “For those of us that know Sean, this is not a surprise,” Patapsco principal Craig Reed told The Eagle. “He is truly a fantastic teacher. He cares really deeply and passionately about students and he works very hard to perfect his craft.”
    Perhaps most excited are McComb’s students, many of whom have studied with him for years.
    Patapsco senior Austin Brauer has been a member of the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) college preparation program since his sophomore year.
    The program, which was headed by McComb until recently, works to provide students with the tools they will need to succeed in college.
    For Brauer, McComb’s guidance has been invaluable.
    “He genuinely cares about the students. If we have problems, inside or outside of school, he is there,” Brauer said, noting, “He goes above and beyond to help us academically.”
    Brauer, who will be headed to Mount St. Mary’s University in the fall, recalled that McComb helped him complete his college applications, including helping him as he wrote his application essays.   
    McComb’s drive to help his students succeed comes largely from his own troubled childhood.
     “I was inspired to teach by my own high school teachers, who invested in me during a challenging time in my life,” McComb told The Eagle last May.
    “I grew up in the home of a mother fighting an addiction to alcohol,” he added. “She passed away due to complications from the addiction in my senior year, and it was the influence of those teachers in my life that allowed me to get out to college and thrive.”
    McComb has used his own experiences to help troubled students like Brandy Batty.
    Batty shared her story during McComb’s segment on “CBS This Morning” last Wednesday.
    A mother at just 16, Batty was kicked out of her house and contemplating leaving school when McComb stepped in and encouraged her to continue her education.
    “He’s like a hero because without him, I don’t think I would be sitting here today,” Batty said through tears.
    Now a senior, Batty is headed to Coppin State University in the fall.
    In his eight years as an educator, all of which have been spent at Patapsco, McComb has kept busy both in and out of the classroom.
    In addition to teaching English classes and mentoring students in the AVID program, McComb also serves as Patapsco’s staff development teacher and has coached tennis and track at the school.
    Outside of Patapsco, McComb has taught at Towson University’s School of Education and written curriculum for BCPS.
    A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, McComb earned a School Improvement Leadership Certificate from Goucher College.
    While he stays busy here at home, McComb will be even busier in his role as National Teacher of the Year.
    His hectic year began as he was honored by President Barack Obama last Thursday during a ceremony at the White House.
    In his remarks at the ceremony, Obama praised McComb for his achievements.
    “Sean tries to instill in his students a sense of respect and obligation to each other,” Obama said.         “As one of his students said, ‘I feel like I’m not learning on my own here; I learn from everyone.’”
    During the next year, McComb will take a hiatus from the classroom to travel across the nation and world representing teachers.
    He may also influence education policy by being invited to sit on commissions and policy boards.
    While McComb is excited for the upcoming year, he noted that the experience will be “bittersweet” because he will miss his newborn son and his wife Sarah, who is also a teacher at Patapsco.
    He will also miss the students who he says have inspired him.
    As McComb noted in his speech at the White House last Thursday, “We, the other teachers and I, aren’t here alone today; our students are here with us in spirit, because they have become a part of who we are.”