For the third consecutive year, Sheppard Pratt presented two of its top educators with the Teacher of the Year Award. Jennifer Riina of the Sheppard Pratt School in Reisterstown (now Glyndon) received the first-place prize and Shannon Burton of the Sheppard Pratt School in Hunt Valley was recognized as the runner-up. Both Riina and Burton were celebrated for their achievements during surprise ceremonies at their respective schools on August 22, 2023, with Sheppard Pratt leaders and colleagues in attendance.
The award was established by the family of former Sheppard Pratt board member and retired educator Dr. Penelope “Penny” Cordish to honor her passion for education, and to recognize the commitment and accomplishments of Sheppard Pratt teachers. Each year, the award is granted to educators who exhibit all five of the following tenets: quality, caring, teamwork, integrity, and leadership. While 10 educators were nominated across seven Sheppard Pratt schools, Riina and Burton stood out.
Jennifer Riina, a social studies teacher, was nominated for her commitment to ensuring her students can effectively advocate for themselves inside the classroom and beyond. Prior to her teaching career, Riina received a juris doctorate from the University of Maryland. Her legal background has influenced her teaching style as she often educates students on current laws and pulls examples from recent events to engage her students in meaningful conversations, all while armed with a batch of her famous homemade cookies. Riina’s unique teaching techniques have proven successful as her students consistently perform well on mandated state assessments. According to one of her nominators, Riina is dedicated to her students and can often be found providing additional instruction during lunch breaks and advisory time. Her commitment to her students goes beyond teaching them to pass state mandated assessments as she strives to help students become informed and engaged members of their respective communities.
Shannon Burton, who teaches a self-contained secondary class, was recognized for her devotion to her students and her colleagues. Burton is known to tailor each of her lessons to meet the unique needs of her students. She once created special materials to send home to a student who needed to learn remotely for more than two years due to family health concerns. She also developed a series of exercises to help another student address their sleep hygiene as their bedtime habits were interfering with their ability to learn. Burton has spent a considerable amount of time advocating for her students outside the classroom by attending doctor’s appointments with students and their parents as well as partnering with third-party organizations to ensure each student receives the care and representation they deserve. She not only cares deeply for her students, but her colleagues as well. She was recently promoted to lead teacher for her ability to train and lead school personnel in Hunt Valley. One nominator commented, “Burton takes her role as a teacher seriously and accepted her new position to help improve the quality of programming for her students. She consistently serves as an excellent model and leader for her classroom staff, support staff, and all other school staff.”
Harsh K. Trivedi, MD, MBA, president and CEO of Sheppard Pratt, presented both awards and recognized all Sheppard Pratt school personnel for their ongoing dedication and commitment to Sheppard Pratt students and families, saying “Your dedication, compassion, and unwavering commitment to the well-being and growth of your students are truly remarkable. Each day, you play a vital role in shaping the lives of children and young adults with diverse educational needs, and your impact is immeasurable.”
Riina and Burton will each receive a monetary stipend and their schools will be granted an additional $5,000 and $3,000 respectively for professional development.