WALDORF, Md. – When she learned she was named the 2022 Teacher of the Year for Charles County Public Schools (CCPS), Morghan Hungerford couldn’t help but reflect on her own education. A product of CCPS — she went to Walter J. Mitchell Elementary, Piccowaxen Middle and Maurice J. McDonough High schools — Hungerford had a “full circle moment.”
“That’s what is so cool about having been named Teacher of the Year. It’s not only an example of the excellent teaching that is happening in Charles County, it’s an example of the excellent learning that’s happening in Charles County,” she said. “So much of what I do in my classroom comes from teachers who are still in the county, who I now run into at professional development. My teaching is not only a reflection of me — it’s a reflection of them.” The other finalists for the award were Ryan Amore, instructional resource teacher at J.C. Parks Elementary School; Barbara Anderson, kindergarten teacher at Mt. Hope/Nanjemoy Elementary School; Annemarie Simpson, Ph.D., mathematics teacher at Maurice J. McDonough High School; and Brittany Thorne, fifth-grade teacher at Dr. Samuel A. Mudd Elementary School.
Hungerford is a second-grade teacher at Arthur Middleton Elementary School — and save for one year teaching third grade — she has spent her career teaching second grade. She received her Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Salisbury University and has two master of education degrees from the American College of Education — one in curriculum and instruction, and the other in educational leadership with an Administrator I certification.
She is a fourth-generation teacher. Her mother, both grandmothers and a great-grandmother were all teachers. Hungerford never seriously entertained any other career. “Maybe I wanted to be a doctor for five minutes when I was in fourth grade,” she joked. “But I have genuinely always wanted to be a teacher. It does run in my blood.”
A special place
While earning her bachelor’s, Hungerford was active in resident life. She worked as a Resident Assistant, better known as an RA. The experience prompted her to entertain the thought of teaching students in upper grades. After her student teaching experience spent in New Zealand teaching students in third, fourth and fifth grades, her mind was made up. “After student teaching, I couldn’t imagine not working with little kids,” Hungerford said. Following graduation the thought of going back to New Zealand to teach entered her mind. “But I came home and started applying for jobs,” she said. “How can I go anywhere else? This is home.”
Hungerford said Middleton is a special place. She’s been working since she was 13,and has had nice bosses and fun jobs, but being at Middleton is the first time she understood what people meant when they said coworkers were like a second family. “This school is like a family, the way we come together to support each other, and I think that radiates to the kids,” she said. “They see the interactions between staff members in a natural, organic way. They see ‘This is how adults get along. This is how I can get along too.”
Hungerford spoke so highly of Middleton, her former college roommate, Brianne White, ended up applying to work at the school despite not being from the area. White is still a Middleton fifth-grade teacher and she and Hungerford remain close friends.
A welcoming space
The walls of Hungerford’s second-grade inclusion classroom — special education teacher, Sarah Shumaker, stops in to work with some of Hungerford’s students in certain subjects — are decorated with affirmations, class photos, instructions and decorations. Each student’s desk has a teal-colored water bottle labeled with their name in sunshine-yellow letters on it, each student has a desk pet, too. They vie to be the mystery student or mystery walker knowing that if Hungerford witnesses that their behavior is on point, they could earn a few extra Hoot Bucks to cash in later. “If the classroom is somewhere the kids want to be, then you have them hooked into learning,” Hungerford said. “I want to provide them with things in their learning space that makes them want to be here.”
A library in the corner of the room houses books and is a big draw for students. “The library is huge for my kids,” Hungerford said. “Any chance they get to grab a book, you would think I’m giving them candy. They really love that, and it has so many options that they can make their own decision on what to read.”
Students see the work Hungerford puts in and appreciate that it is for them. “She is really a hardworking and nice teacher,” Ledya Barnes, a fifth-grade student, wrote in a nomination letter.
“Ms. Hungerford is the best teacher,” Cooper Wilson, a fifth grader, wrote. “She is very caring and stops everything to help someone and explain something.”
Creating a student-centered classroom was a top priority for Hungerford. “I think student-centered, small group learning — in my personal opinion — is the best,” she said. Teaching students in small groups who are working on their learning level allows Hungerford to meet them where they are academically. During a recent math lesson, one group worked through fractions with Hungerford, while another group worked at a different level. Having taught third grade in the past, Hungerford has the experience to determine what a student needs to excel next year. “This is where I need to get you,” she will think about her students. “You need to be able to do this.”
A place to grow
Her students are motivated to learn, Hungerford said. “This class really has a desire to learn,” she said. “By making it student centered, they are able to take ownership of their learning. I do not take this group of kids for granted.”
Hungerford likes teaching second grade — building on the skills students learned in first grade while preparing them for third grade. “In second grade, you go from learning to read to reading to learn. We spend a lot of time working on phonics, breaking words apart and decoding words. We also spend a lot of time on what do these words mean? What can I get from these words? In second grade, so much growth happens.
“To take these little first graders who are really coming in with knowledge and transforming them into third graders who take that knowledge and run so far … being able to make that transformation happen is magical,” Hungerford said.
Students remember Hungerford’s impact long after they leave her classroom. Logan Boswell, a sixth grader at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School, was a student of hers when he was in second grade. “He often reflects on how she was his favorite teacher — wishing he could go back to her class,” parents Julie and Rico Boswell wrote in a nomination letter. “She fueled his passion to learn. For her, it wasn’t just about the curriculum, it was about reaching each student on their level, and helping them find what excited them about learning.”
Hungerford has only been teaching for six years and was surprised she was named Teacher of the Year. “So much of this is a reflection of the learning taking place in Charles County,” she said. “I want to give kids as good a learning experience as I had.”
Hungerford is one of 24 state finalists eligible for the Maryland Teacher of the Year Award. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) will select and announce the Maryland Teacher of the Year later this year. Hungerford will be honored by the Board of Education at an upcoming meeting.