Sarbanes Award

Letters About Literature Comes to an End

It is bittersweet to announce that after 27 years the Letters About Literature contest has ended. After much evaluation, the Library of Congress decided that the 2018–2019 contest would be the final year of Letters About Literature. With the loss of the infrastructure and administration the Library of Congress provided, we will not be continuing the contest. The Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year Award is ending with the conclusion of Letters About Literature. We thank all of the teachers and students who made the program possible.

Celebrating educators who help students turn the page

On May 4, Washington Episcopal School teacher Katherine Hopper was awarded the 2019 Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year Award.

Educators are one of our most valuable resources. It’s educators who inspire students to learn, motivate them when they struggle, and celebrate first when they succeed. Simply put, teachers change lives. Sarbanes Awards winners change lives by inspiring their students to love literature.

Every year, Maryland Humanities awards a special prize to a Letters About Literature (LAL) teacher in memory of Christine D. Sarbanes, former Maryland Humanities board member. We honor Christine Sarbanes’ work as an educator by recognizing a teacher who works avidly to promote reading in his or her school.

  • Who is eligible for the Sarbanes Award?
    To be eligible for the Sarbanes Award, Maryland educators must meet the following requirements:

    • Teach students who participate in LAL
    • Promote reading and writing by employing creative teaching methods

  • Who can submit a nomination?
    Nominations are accepted from principals and colleagues.
  • How are nominations submitted?

    The submission deadline for the 2019 Sarbanes Award is Friday, March 29, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. The online nomination form can be found here.

Katherine Hopper

Winner of the 2019 Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of The Year Award

As a seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher at Washington Episcopal School in Montgomery County, Ms. Hopper inspires her students to love reading. On any given day in her classroom there will be a dozen or more teens reading books of their choosing.

Katherine Hopper, 2019 Sarbanes Award Winner

2019 Sarbanes Award winner Katherine Hopper.

Congratulations to all of our Sarbanes Award recipients:

Year Sarbanes Award Winner Winner’s School
2018 Tara A. Elliott Salisbury Middle School, Wicomico County
2017 Melanie Coates Catonsville High School, Baltimore County
2016 Diane Curry River Hill High School, Howard County
2015 Kimberly Dyar Elkton High School, Cecil County
2014 Faith Majors Samuel Ogle Middle School, Prince George’s County
2013 Clinton Smith Parkdale High School, Prince George’s County
2012 Aisha Watson City Neighbors Charter School, Baltimore City
2011 Cynthia Barry St. Martin’s-in-the-Field Day School, Anne Arundel County
2010 Cynthia Malek and Kathleen Mikas Patterson Mill Middle School, Harford County
  • “Last year was the first time our school participated in the program and one of our students was selected! She was thrilled to be recognized and has been an inspiration to other students. I am so thankful for all the support provided by Maryland Humanities. They reach out and are incredibly helpful and willing to provide resources and opportunities. We appreciate the genuine interest they have in our students!”

    Letters About Literature teacher
  • “A few years ago a student connected with a novel describing a family merging from two families that had been traumatized by divorce. Her own family was in the process of this same event. Because of her selection I was able to learn what she was going through. No other assignment would have been quite so helpful for revealing and honoring her feelings.”

    Letters About Literature teacher
  • “This contest gives [students] a chance to practice [letter writing] while also expressing themselves about a work of literature or a particular author that has made an impact on them personally. As a teacher, I benefit from reading the letters because I always learn new things about each student.”

    ​Letters About Literature teacher
  • “Besides giving my students a relaxed writing situation with a non-threatening prompt (a personal letter, after all), your program challenges students to think ‘outside the box.'”

    ​Letters About Literature teacher
  • “Over the past few years, I have noticed a decline in the number of students who read for pleasure. This type of contest certainly fosters that love of reading.”

    ​Letters About Literature teacher
  • “For the second year, my students are demonstrating an enthusiasm and effort that surpasses what they usually display. I know this is due to the wonderful opportunity you provide – a chance to write to their favorite author. Authentic communication truly inspires my students! … I am confident that this will become a significant memory in my students’ sixth grade experience. How wonderful that it should promote the beauty and the strength of the written word.”

    Letters About Literature teacher
  • “I want to thank you for opening the door to writing about reading… By providing students with the opportunity to write about a genre and a book that is of interest, they are more willing to open up, get personal, and write to their full potential. It is amazing what children are able to produce when they enjoy the task at hand.”

    ​Letters About Literature teacher
  • “In a test-driven educational system, we can sometimes lose sight of what is important. Allowing students time to read and discuss literature can never be underestimated. I appreciate that Letters About Literature recognizes, promotes, and fosters the importance of literature by getting students to write to authors. This contest gives students the opportunity to really think about how a piece has impacted them. I know that the authors don’t necessarily read the letters addressed to them through the contest, but my students have often sent an additional copy of their letter to the author. The euphoria and excitement that comes over the kids who are lucky enough to have the author respond is heart-warming. Just this past year, a student of mine received a personal letter, an autographed book, and other items of appreciation from the author he wrote to.”

    ​Letters About Literature teacher
  • “The year before last, one of my students lost her father to a heart attack at the beginning of the school year. Books were her connection to her father. The shock of the sudden passing, and the newness of having to take care of her younger siblings would not allow her to grieve, and she spent the first few months in therapy due to this. LAL enabled her to reconnect with her father on a different plane, through the framework of books they enjoyed together. Due to this, she was express her grief & allow healing to begin.”

    Letters About Literature teacher
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