Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Damascus teacher is state finalist

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Photo courtesy of Star Gazing Farm
Derry, 5, tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on his left hind leg. The owner of Star Gazing Farm in Boyds is raising money to pay for his surgery.
Raul Ortiz, head of the successful Automotive Technology Program at Damascus High School, is one of seven finalists for State Teacher of the Year for 2007-2008.

Ortiz was named Montgomery County Teacher of the Year in April. Maryland Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick announced the selection of the state finalists last Thursday.

More than teaching auto technology skills, Ortiz serves as a role model for what his students can achieve and inspires his students to continue learning, say those who nominated him for the top county award.

After spending 19 years as a master automotive technician, Ortiz decided to become a teacher and continued his education to earn his teaching certification, then went on to earn a master’s degree equivalency in education.

Ortiz has guided Damascus High School through the rigorous process of achieving two of the highest certifications possible for an auto technology program. He also has built partnerships with local dealers and repair shops, placing students with employers.

The state finalists were selected by a panel of judges from key Maryland education organizations representing principals, teachers, school boards, teacher unions, students, parents and higher education.

Oral interviews with the finalists will be conducted Sept. 15.

The Maryland Teacher of the Year will be announced Oct. 5. In addition to winning cash and other awards, the winner will spend the coming year as a speaker and advisor in the state and will go on to compete for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

Looking for all homemade ice cream chefs

Get out your freezers and start cranking.

The annual Damascus Community Fair Ice Cream Making Contest will be held Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Damascus Carnival Grounds, 10211 Lewis Drive.

Only hand-cranked freezers will be allowed in the competition. If you don’t have your own, Chairman Paul Leatherman has several to lend.

Teams of four to eight people are welcome to enter as a team.

Recipes must use dairy products and ‘‘French vanilla” flavor must include eggs. Teams must provide all ingredients, the recipe and the arm power to crank the freezer.

Ice cream will be judged on taste and texture.

To reserve a freezer or to sign up a team, call Leatherman at 301-253-5469.

Funds needed forworking dog’s surgery

Star Gazing Farm’s flock of adopted stray and abused animals has been on guard lately, as their protector, Derry, a Maremma sheepdog, has been sidelined with a leg injury.

Derry, 5, tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on his left hind leg, and Anne Shroeder, owner of the nonprofit animal sanctuary in Boyds, is trying to raise $3,400 to pay for his surgery.

‘‘What’s really bad about it is that he’s not a ‘dog dog,’ he’s a working dog, so now all the other critters are in danger,” Shroeder said last week.

She added that when Derry tore the ACL in his right hind leg two years ago, the farm lost several ducks to predators.

The farm is home to two other pups, Sage and Tigba, but Derry is the only working dog, she said.

Shroeder said the injury occurred suddenly, and that torn ACLs are common among large dogs, especially ones that are physically active.

Donations, which are tax-deductible, will be accepted until Oct. 30, with Shroeder paying the remaining balance herself.

‘‘We have to do it no matter what,” she said. ‘‘It’s not an option to say no.”

So far, about $300 has been collected, she said.

To donate or obtain more information, visit⁄help⁄derry-operation.php. Donations can also be sent to Star Gazing Farm, P.O. Box 162, Boyds, MD 20841.

Horticulture Classesopen to all

Montgomery College’s Germantown Campus offers a variety of horticulture courses for plant lovers, garden club members and those interested in continuing education classes.

Classes will start Sept. 5 and 10. Some will meet at the school and some at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton.

Admission to Montgomery College is open to everyone who has graduated from high school, earned a high school equivalence certificate or presents special qualifications. Check with the college for information concerning fees, tuition waivers and special in-county business⁄industry employee tuition rates. Cost is contingent upon residency and credit hours per course.

For further information, contact Stephen Dubik, professor and coordinator of the Landscape Technology Program at Montgomery College, at 240-567-7803 or e-mail, or contact the college at 240-567-5000. Register online at

On campus

*Toni Wrtz of Boyds, a 2007 graduate of Damascus High School, received the Academic Honor Scholarship to study at Frostburg State University this fall. She plans to major in parks and recreation at the university and is the daughter of Trent and Terry Wertz.

*Ashley M. Kukucka of Monrovia received a Bachelor of Science degree cum laude in elementary education from York College of Pennsylvania in May. Kukucka, a graduate of Damascus High School, is the daughter of Paul and Roxanne Kukucka.

Items appropriate for People and Places must be received by 9 a.m. Friday. They can be sent by mail to The Damascus-Clarksburg Gazette, 1200 Quince Orchard Blvd., Gaithersburg, MD 20878. They can also be sent by fax to 301-670-7183 or e-mailed to