Mrs. Jackie Clary Thomas, first grade educator at Hampstead Hill Academy, one of the oldest community charter schools in the Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP) network, has been named the second recipient of the annual Robert Benjamin Excellence in Direct Instruction Reading Award.

The award, which comes with a cash prize of $2,500 to the winner, recognizes a BCP teacher who excels at teaching Direct Instruction reading, the proven, nationally recognized curriculum at the heart of the BCP curriculum. The award was funded and created by longtime BCP board member and Education Committee chair, Robert “Bob” Benjamin, who passed away earlier this year.

Mrs. Clary Thomas is among the best teachers I’ve worked with in my career. She is a consummate professional and has the exact right balance of a structured and caring classroom culture. She is incredible at moving kids from learning to read to reading to learn. There’s no one who can teach young children how to read and do math better. Her student growth scores and her parent reviews are a testament to her work.

Matt Hornbeck

HHA Principal

Mrs. Clary Thomas began teaching in Baltimore City Public Schools, BCP’s partner school system, in 2012 after graduating from the University of Richmond. She was a PreK teacher and used a non-Direct Instruction approach of teaching reading with letter names, letter sounds, and sight words taught simultaneously. “Eight years ago I came to HHA, learned about Direct Instruction, and can see the benefits of spending more time on teaching letter sounds and modified orthography,” explains Mrs. Clary Thomas, who has taught first grade since joining the HHA faculty. She earned her teaching certificate through the Baltimore City Teaching Residency and has a master’s degree in reading and literacy from Walden University. 

We asked Mrs. Clary Thomas to share her own words about what this award and teaching at HHA mean to her:

It feels amazing to receive recognition for doing what I love: teaching my students to read. It validates all of the hard work my classroom assistant and I put in each day to help our students excel. I’m so grateful to work with colleagues who use Direct Instruction each day. I cannot receive this honor without thanking the teachers who worked with my students before me, and I am excited to hand my group off to their future teachers where I’m sure their reading skills will continue to grow.

Working with my first-grade students each year brings me great joy. Being a part of this critical part of their lives where they’re developing essential skills and becoming more independent and responsible is truly special. This is particularly the case with reading as first grade is where they transition from learning how to read to reading to learn and for enjoyment.

Direct instruction is a fantastic research-based tool that teaches students how to read and how to think about what they’re reading. The format of the program makes sense and works. Beginning each lesson with practicing letter sounds and words before reading stories that include them, gives our students the tools and confidence to be successful readers. As the program continues through the first-grade curriculum, it gradually scales back on the supports which, in turn, prepares our students to be able to read text in any books or materials they may come across.

Congratulations, Mrs. Clary Thomas! 

About the Baltimore Curriculum Project

Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP) is the largest operator of local neighborhood, public charter schools in Maryland. We create safe, supportive learning environments for children PK-8 by providing innovative, research-based educational strategies, intensive teacher training and extensive support for administration and staff. We support our local neighborhood needs by tailoring our resources and support through community partnerships.

As one of the longest-running charter operators in Maryland, our schools are regularly recognized as some of the most highly acclaimed neighborhood charter schools in the state. 

Pimlico Elementary / Middle School

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