BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — Educators are the backbone of society. They have perhaps the most important job of all: molding the minds of today and tomorrow.

The weight of that responsibility isn’t lost on Brianna Ross, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Deer Park Middle Magnet School and the 2021-22 Maryland Teacher of the Year.

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“I come to work every day and I do it for our students, especially here at Deer Park, a population that’s largely Black and brown,” Ross said. “I was intentional about working here, serving students of color who look like me.”

Ross, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh, is working toward her doctorate. Besides that, she also serves as the school’s equity liaison and summer transition coordinator.

The seventh-year teacher was named Baltimore County Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year in April, standing out from a crowd of more than 150 teachers across the county.

From there, Ross was among 24 teachers from throughout the state vying for the top honor. Judges narrowed the field to eight finalists and ultimately named Ross the winner.

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The award was announced Thursday on Maryland Public Television during special coverage hosted by WJZ’s Denise Koch and Dr. Darla Strouse, executive director of the state Department of Education.

“I don’t think this work can be done if it’s not first for our love for our students, love for who they are and love for who they can be,” Ross said in accepting the award.

Making the honor even better was the fact that Ross got to share the experience with her parents, Vincent and Linette.

“God has truly blessed us,” Vincent Ross said. “It’s been a blessing to watch her grow and mature. We never thought we’d be here watching her become Maryland State Teacher of the Year.”

Ross will go on to compete for the National Teacher of the Year award, which will be announced in April 2022.

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“If we want to see change in our country, I think it has to start with our classrooms first,” Ross said.