Ms. Barlow: The Definition of a Golden Bear

As the 2021 Teacher of the Year prepares to retire, we look back on her 42 years teaching at Hammond.

By Marissa Yelenik and Sarah Meklir

Online Editor and Managing Editor

Pictured above: Seniors Georgia Briggs and Ama Stott surprise Ms. Barlow with Hammond’s 2021 Teacher of the Year award (left to right: Georgia Briggs, Ms. Barlow, Ama Stott).

A constant force for good at Hammond, Ms. Barlow has been teaching here for 42 years. This year, she was awarded “Teacher of the Year” by the 2021 senior class in honor of her immense impact on students and her love for teaching and Hammond. She will begin a well-deserved retirement at the end of this school year. 

The award itself was a surprise to Ms. Barlow, who didn’t expect the honor for herself. She reflected on the moment it was awarded to her, detailing the events as she sat in her classroom in the Villa, the new name for the set of portables the social studies department is in this year. “Mr. Dunlap was marching down the hall with the band playing Sweet Caroline and I thought “What’s he doing in the Villa?” I thought he had gotten lost for band practice and they were supposed to go to the field. I was just really surprised and really honored that I had gotten that award.”

With all of her years of teaching under her belt, Ms. Barlow is a wealth of knowledge regarding Hammond’s history and the changes that have taken place. She reflected on her years, saying “There have been lots of different experiences here, but it’s been great to be at one school and see what it’s been like for this long. I haven’t changed schools, it’s this school that’s changed while I’ve been here.”

She went on to think about one of the biggest things that will stick with her about Hammond, and what makes it stand out from other places. “[Hammond is] a community and I think it’s just everybody–especially the teachers–are so giving and willing to be supportive of all kinds of students, all kinds of problems, and all kinds of celebrations. I feel like this is the way all schools should be, but not a lot are.”

She told the story of one of her most shocking memories and favorite stories, saying, “Way back, way, way, way back, we would have a fundraiser, we would have donkey basketball. There were donkeys, Mr. Lerner would have a heart attack if this were to ever happen today, there was like this company and they would bring these donkeys into the gym and there was the teacher team and the student team, and we would ride these donkeys and shoot baskets. I didn’t do it, but I did watch.”

She went on to expand on the topic later, reflecting on the changes that have taken place since then. “Just think of how those kinds of things would never happen today, just because we don’t want to hurt the gym floor, we don’t want to hurt the donkeys, we don’t want to have a lawsuit…”

Ms. Barlow found the change from full year to a semesterised one difficult, as she had half the time in the first semester, and even less the second, to prepare her students for the world history AP exam and complete the curriculum. This caused her to hold a lot of hope for the coming years. “I’m thinking next year is going to kind of be normal, I mean, we’ll be in school every day, have six periods of day again, and most people in high school that want to be vaccinated can be, so it should be great… It’s gonna be like orientation for half of the school. I mean, next year’s sophomores have never been here, next year’s juniors have barely been here. There are freshmen. It’s crazy. Plus they’re going to have to go upstairs.”

Speaking with her colleagues:

With 46 years of teaching experience overall, Ms. Barlow has had some fantastic advice to offer newer teachers. In speaking with multiple Hammond teachers, every one of them shared fond memories of helpful advice or encouragement they received from her in their early days of teaching.  Mrs. Dickie, who teaches various high-level math classes, stated, “I remember early in my time at Hammond, each time I talked to her she was so kind, helpful, and interested in how I was doing. When she spent time talking to me, I felt important and respected, which is how I imagine her students feel.”

This was corroborated by Mrs. Lovaas, a US History teacher. “When I first came to Hammond, Ms. Barlow was one of the first people I met and she instantly welcomed me. I was lucky enough to be classroom neighbors with her, and I asked her more questions than one could probably ask. Every time, she always listened and offered answers and advice in an unassuming way. That may be one of the things that sticks out the most about Ms. Barlow, she is a LEGEND at Hammond, yet is one of the most unassuming people I know.” 

She went on, “She is beyond generous and I often think of her as my work mom and my dear friend. There are way too many memories to pick out, but they all have the theme of laughter and feeling valued. I always felt like I could come to her to bounce off lesson ideas, discuss our favorite TV shows, and talk about literally anything.”

Ms. Barlow herself, however, credited much of her teaching success to good colleagues and principals. When asked about her teaching advice, she spoke fondly of former Hammond principal Marcy Leonard. “Mrs. Leonard would always say ‘good teaching is good teaching,’ [meaning] it doesn’t matter what requirement Howard County makes or the state of Maryland makes, you’re always gonna do what’s best for the kids, no matter what other crazy changes are happening around you.”

Ms. Barlow’s generosity and kindness towards her students and colleagues has become a pillar of Hammond’s foundational motto, “Where People are Important.” Mr. Livieratos, an economics and US government teacher, underlined the importance of her influence. “She has become our department mom. She feeds us delicious treats and knows all the tea about what’s happening at Hammond. The Social Studies team is going to miss her so much. She makes working at Hammond fun. She’s one of the people you look forward to seeing every day when you walk into work.”

Mrs. Lovaas added, “Ms. Barlow always goes out of her way to make everyone feel celebrated on their birthdays by using her incredible baking skills to make us cakes! She is constantly thinking of others.”

Her impact on students was evidenced by this anecdote from Ms. Osborne, who teaches multiple advanced math classes at Hammond. “I love going to a Hammond football game with Ms. Barlow and seeing all of the alumni come up and talk to her. Amazingly, she still remembers all of their names and their families!”

For many, her caring personality was infectious. Mr. Livieratos felt her impact deeply. “I learned how to take care of people from her- those so-called “soft skills” don’t come naturally to me as they do to her. She lives the motto “where people are important” and she taught me that people have to come before projects and that the people you work with can become some of your closest friends in this world. And for that, I could not be more grateful. She taught me that Hammond is a community–a family really, and not just a workplace.”

Ms. Barlow was an inspiration to many of her coworkers, in addition to countless students she taught with her confidence and caring nature. This was highlighted by Mrs. Dickie’s words, “Ms. Barlow inspires me to continue learning and implementing new instructional strategies, but to also trust that sometimes the traditional methods remain effective.”

Her coworkers wrapped up speaking about Ms. Barlow with some sweet words for her to hear. Ms. Osborne stated “One of my favorite memories with Ms. Barlow is chaperoning the Europe trip with her. I could sit and listen to her tell stories about Hammond all day long. She is still one of the hardest workers at Hammond and we are truly going to miss her next year. I hope that I can be half as dedicated of a teacher as Ms. Barlow is to her students. Ms. Barlow is the definition of a Hammond Golden Bear.”

Mrs. Lovaas added in her own thankful message, saying “Ms. Barlow is an icon at Hammond and I really cannot think of what it will be like to not see her everyday next year! I was lucky enough to teach next to her during all my years at Hammond and I am even luckier to call her a friend! There is no one who deserves an awesome retirement more than Mrs. Barlow!”

After 42 years, Ms. Barlow has become a huge part of Hammond High School. She has come to inspire countless students, help and encourage numerous teachers, and brighten the lives of almost anyone she comes into contact with. She will always be a part of the school community no matter where she goes or what she does, and Hammond, as well as the Bear Press, would like to send a huge thank you to her for all she has done

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