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Elizabeth “Lisa” Powell, a special education teacher at Greenview Knolls Elementary School, is known for raising awareness and advocating for the students she serves.

That advocacy and her commitment to students during the last quarter century as a teacher recently earned her the Sam Kirk Educator of the Year from the Learning Disabilities Association of America.

Superintendent Michael Martirano and an entourage of school board members and administrators surprised Powell with balloons and flowers Thursday morning during class.

Powell’s colleagues joked that they had never seen the teacher speechless.

After nearly tearing up, Powell said, “I feel very, very, very special ... I’m very honored that I was chosen.”

Speaking to the children in the class, Powell said that her goal is to be sure each child tries his or her best. “We all do our very best to learn what we can, the best we can,” Powell said.

The Learning Disabilities Association of Maryland nominated Powell earlier this school year to represent the state for the award given by the Learning Disabilities Association of America, a network of state and local groups that advocate on behalf of and offer support to people with learning disabilities and their families.

The Sam Kirk award takes its name from an early researcher and writer in the field of learning disabilities who died in 1996.

Retired St. Mary’s special education teacher Anne Fogel won the national award two years ago.

Powell is the special education department chair at her school, where she recently helped write the successful application for a grant from Dominion Power that focused on assisting students with disabilities, low-income students and minorities to become more successful in science and math.

She spends part of each school day working with a small group of students in Amanda Kellam’s fourth-grade classroom.

“She’s awesome. She knows how to build individual skills” in each student, Kellam said. Having the extra teacher in the class during reading and math lessons helps her and all of the students in the class, Kellam said.

Powell, who lives in Lusby, also volunteers extensively in a number of community activities, include participation in the Citizens’ Advisory Committee for Special Education, the Learning Disabilities Association, Hospice, Relay for Life, and Friends of the St. Mary’s County Public Library.

jyeatman@somdnews.com