Educators honored

Geoffrey Hoffman, left, coaches indoor softball during Liberty's game with Manchester Valley High School. Hoffman was selected by The Arc of Carroll County as a Special Education Professional of the Year

Carroll County Times

Organizing hockey, bowling and softball teams for students with special needs has been an extraordinary experience for Liberty High School teacher Geoffrey Hoffman.

"Winning and losing doesn't matter to the kids. They're just really enjoying being there and being on a team," Hoffman said. "They get to do some of the things that other students take for granted."

Hoffman was one of two educators selected by The Arc of Carroll County as Special Education Professionals of the Year. Linda Purcell, of West Middle School, was also selected.

Hoffman, a special education resource teacher, began coaching this year, as Carroll County Public Schools kicked off its corollary sports program for regular education and special needs students.

The Reisterstown resident started with floor hockey in the fall, moved to bowling in the winter and is now coaching a team of nine students in indoor softball.

"Right now, the highlight for us is we've had two games and we've lost both games, but they continue to try," Hoffman said. "They scored more runs in the second game than they did in the first."

Liberty and Manchester Valley high schools were the only two schools able to field a full team this year, Hoffman said. But students still get to practice and have one game per week.

The Arc is also recognizing Purcell, a Learning for Independence Teacher, who makes it a priority to focus on academia as well as life skills.

The life skills program at West Middle is for students with cognitive disabilities, Purcell said. The curriculum incorporates social skills and manners, as well as confidence-building activities.

Purcell said her favorite part of teaching is taking students on community-based field trips where they get to be independent and make decisions.

"They can really be independent when we go to a restaurant and let them order," Purcell said. "Without Mom and Dad or brothers and sisters, they can make decisions."

Each year, The Arc asks residents, parents and school staff to submit applications for the Special Education Professional of the Year award, said Donald Rowe, executive director of The Arc. This year the organization received more than 15 applications, which a committee sorted through before selecting Hoffman and Purcell, he said,

"The committee really felt strongly about teachers that were really interacting with students and