Giving children the best start possible is the goal of most kindergarten teachers. Ginger Baltimore of Manila teaches kindergarten in the North Elementary School in Osceola and loves her job. She is in her second year of teaching and tries to take her enthusiasm for learning to her students each day.
Even though teaching has its own rewards, Baltimore got a bonus when it was announced last week that she had been named 2003 WalMart Teacher of the Year.
Baltimore said she was surprised and pleased. She was nominated by students and co-workers for the special award.
Keri Shanks, manager of Osceola WalMart, was present for a reception presenting Baltimore with a smock embroidered with "Teacher of the Year." In addition to the honor, Baltimore received a $1,000 gift. She plans to purchase new chairs and tables for her classroom.
Her classroom will be a model for the Arkansas Reading First grant for the 2003-2004 school year. Baltimore is training for the reading program to assist the children in early reading. Hers is one of two classrooms to be in the first year program at Osceola Kindergarten.
An assembly in honor of Baltimore was held with students and parents at the school. Superintendent Milton Washington thanked Baltimore for her work and dedication to the students. Also present was Sandra Landry, principal, and Pam Smith, Baltimore mentor.
The celebration was not over. Baltimore was surprised with a "Teacher of the Year" party at the Manila Depot on Thursday night.
Her husband, Jason, told her they were to attend a party for a friend. When Baltimore arrived she was surprised to find her family, friends, and co-workers there to celebrate with her.
A barbecue dinner with all of the trimmings and a special cake inscribed with "Congratulations" was served to the large crowd.
Baltimore is a 1996 graduate of Manila High School. She graduated from Arkansas State University in 2000 with a degree in early childhood elementary education. Teaching is what she has always wanted to do, she said.
She is the daughter of Scott and Pam Townsend of Manila and the granddaughter of R.J. and JoAnn Bennett of Manila.
The end of the 2002-2003 school year will long be remembered by Baltimore as a special year in her teaching career.