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MDCSS is Proud to Announce the Winners of the 2024 Social Studies Professional Awards!


Elementary Teacher of the Year

Mr. Steven O'Neill

Plum Point Elementary School

Calvert County Public Schools

Mr. O’Neill, a passionate 5th-grade teacher at Plum Point Elementary, employs deliberative strategies to cultivate critical thinking skills in his students. He establishes norms that transcend all subjects, creating a harmonious and collaborative classroom environment. Through encouraging students to become advocates in their own lives and communities, Mr. O’Neill instills a sense of empowerment and self-expression in his classroom. His dedication to shaping well-rounded individuals equips students not only with social studies knowledge but also with the confidence to navigate the world around them.



Nicole Penix

Social Studies Learning Specialist

Calvert County Public Schools

It is inspiring to witness his dedication to the growth and development of his fellow educators. What sets Steven apart is his exceptional rapport with his students. His enthusiasm for social studies is contagious, and he instills a passion for the subject in his students as well. I have observed firsthand how his students become engaged and excited about learning because of his dedication to making social studies come alive in the classroom.

Secondary Teacher of the Year

Ms. Kate Ehrlich

Oakdale High School 

Frederick County Public Schools


Kate is a consummate professional, she is a leader of her peers and dedicated to her students. She is always seeking new knowledge and ways to grow her professional practice. Every summer she engages in a study abroad for teachers program, then returns to share her learning with her peers. She is the teacher I call when I need a project done well and on time, to proof and edit the work of others, to develop new materials.


Colleen Bernard

Curriculum Specialist, Secondary Social Studies

Frederick County Public Schools

Kate Ehrlich is a teacher at Oakdale High School in Frederick County, Maryland.  She began teaching social studies in Frederick County Public Schools in 2006, following her graduation from Towson University.  Ms. Ehrlich holds a Master's degree in the Humanities from Hood College and earned her National Board Certification in 2011. She has developed a number of courses in FCPS including our new dual enrollment Cultural Identity in America course. She has sponsored the Rho Kappa social studies honor society, and most recently and of great note is her dedication to expanding the historical narrative. Kate received a grant from the Institute for Common Power to develop a traveling exhibit about local Black & African American history. The exhibit is currently on display at C. Burr Artz Library in Frederick and will be traveling to all FCPS high schools this spring.

Promising New Social Studies
Teacher of the Year

Savannah Sullenger

North County High School

Anne Arundel County Public Schools


As a former North County High School student in Anne Arundel County, Savannah Sullenger was excited to find out she was returning to her alma mater to fulfill her student teaching during her internship in achieving her Master of Arts in Teaching at Towson University. Upon completion of her internship, her social studies department chair was thrilled to offer her a job at North County teaching World History in the Social Studies Department. After three years of teaching, Savannah is now the team leader for the World History team and also co-leads the Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society.



Joey Landgraf

President-Elect, MDCSS

Social Studies Educator

Anne Arundel County Public Schools

Ms. Sullenger has accomplished so much in her short teaching career, within her classroom, amongst her colleagues, and across Anne Arundel County. She expertly crafts and delivers engaging, differentiated, instruction rooted in organizational strategies .  In addition to teaching a diverse schedule of classes, including co-taught and Honors World History, she also took on the challenge of teaching two new "passion courses" on current events in Latin America and East Asia, spending a lot of her own time building robust lessons for these courses that only last one marking period. Additionally, Ms. Sullenger is the Team Lead for World History, where she motivates and inspires her colleagues to plan engaging, differentiated, data-driven lessons for all our school's juniors. Ms. Sullenger is also a professional learning community (PLC) leader at North County, where she leads a group that focuses on improving student success through the use of AVID strategies. In addition to being a team lead, Ms. Sullenger is also a professional development district facilitator for AVID in AACPS. Her leadership at such a young age is impressive, and goes beyond the walls of our school.

Civic Leader of the Year

Mr. Scott Goldstein

Patuxent High School

Calvert County Public Schools



Selected & Conferred by


Mr. Goldstein has been recognized many times for his accomplishments, including winning the prestigious Agnes Myer Outstanding Teacher Award. However, in this instance, I am nominating Mr. Goldstein for the Maryland Civic Education Coalition Civic Educator of the Year Award because of his unparalleled work in developing student leaders and preparing them to become leaders in Calvert County, the State of Maryland, and beyond. Mr. Goldstein's excellence as an educator and his belief in the importance of instilling democratic values in students transcends the classroom. His years of experience and dedication to student leadership have allowed Mr. Goldstein to serve as a mentor to a generation of other student government faculty sponsors, and he is well-known as a leader in this arena among his Maryland colleagues.


Scott McComb

Supervisor of Social Studies

Calvert County Public Schools

Mr. Scott Goldstein is completing his 39th and final year in public education. During this tenure, he has taught AP United States History, AP European History, United States History, and Juvenile Justice. Mr. Goldstein is the Student Government Association (SGA) sponsor at Patuxent High School and the county-wide sponsor of the Calvert Association of Student Councils (CASC). Moreover, he is a recognized leader in the Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC) network as well. Mr. Goldstein has also prepared the school-based SGA organizations and their sponsors for success. Mr. Goldstein prepared the groundwork for the many accomplishments of Calvert SGA Chapters and Sponsors that have been achieved in the 29 years that he has been Calvert County’s CASC sponsor.

In her role as Manager of College and Career Readiness in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County Public School system, Leah Renzi draws on her experiences as a classroom social studies educator and her service at the state education agency to expand learning opportunities for all students. She has served on multiple education advisory boards for local public institutions and on the Executive Boards for the Maryland Council for Social Studies and the Council of State Social Studies Specialists. She is committed to ensuring that all students have access to engaging educational programs that support success in their chosen college, career, and civic life.



Bruce A. Lesh 

Supervisor of Elementary Social Studies

Carroll County Public Schools

Social Studies Instructional
Leader of the Year

Ms. Leah Renzi

Anne Arundel County Public Schools

For almost 30 years, Leah Renzi has been a leader in Maryland’s social studies community. A teacher at heart, for twenty-two years Leah served as a middle and high school classroom teacher. As a classroom teacher she sought out difficult postings to help students often overlooked or underestimated. As social studies department chair, team leader, staff development teacher, and for six years, Coordinator of Social Studies for the Maryland State Department of Education, Leah taught students and teachers the joys of social studies.In her role as Coordinator of Social Studies Leah oversaw significant revisions to the state’s elementary social studies frameworks, inaugurated a new assessment for 8th graders, and fostered collegiality and professional growth for the 24 LEA social studies supervisors during periods of racial unrest and the COVID pandemic. Leah’s dedication to social studies for all students drove her to promote professional learning on the teaching of the Holocaust, the inclusion of objectives in Maryland state standards focused on disability history and LGBTQ+ history, and to foster a working relationship between governmental and no-governmental partners to surface resources for the teaching about Maryland’s Indigenous peoples. Leah Renzi exemplifies the knowledge, professionalism, and leadership that the Distinguished Service Award is designed to recognize.

Outstanding Professional at a Social  Studies-Related Organization

Debra Rantanen

Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum

St. Leonard, Maryland

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Ms. Rantanen has been an extraordinary partner of Calvert County Public Schools in developing a program at JPPM that teaches every CCPS 8th grade student about the history of segregated life in Calvert County in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Ms. Rantanen recognizing that the park, which had been a farm during the era being interpreted, had also been home to freed slaves who worked as sharecroppers after emancipation. She understood that the park was uniquely poised to tell this story and help young people better understand this painful part of the county’s history.  Ms. Rantanen led her education team to develop a powerful learning opportunity for CCPS students. The JPPM program has proven to be a valuable learning experience for CCPS students, and, thanks to Ms. Rantanen, it is an experience that will be had by every CCPS student. As a result, the impact for our community is immense. CCPS is so appreciative of the leadership and hard work demonstrated by Ms. Rantanen.


Scott McComb

Supervisor of Social Studies

Calvert County Public Schools

As the Director of Education and Public Programming, Debra Rantanen oversees park educators and works collaboratively with an array of park and MAC Lab staff to bring experiential learning opportunities to visitors and the wider community which encourage them to expand their knowledge and appreciation of the region’s natural and cultural history. Formerly, Ms. Rantanen was Director of Education at the Antique Boat Museum where she developed interpretive programming inspired by the history and ecology of the St. Lawrence River in New York State. Ms. Rantanen brings over 15 years of public-school teaching experience to these positions and has been actively involved in her rural communities. Ms. Rantanen has an M.A. in History from Cornell University.

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