WASHINGTON — Shepaug Valley School mathematics teacher and coach Marianne Maher has been named the Region 12 Teacher of the Year for 2016.

“Marianne represents the best of the teaching profession,” said Pat Cosentino, the Region 12 superintendent of schools. “She is passionate about teaching and learning. She has a love of mathematics and shares that with her students. We are thrilled to have Marianne represent Region 12 as teacher of the year.”

Cosentino said Maher is generous with her time and does whatever is necessary to help students succeed. She is respected by both parents and her colleagues.

For Maher, the key to teaching is having children feel respected and supported, while making mathematics relevant to their day-to-day lives.

“It’s important that they see me in the role of a mother,” Maher said. “I treat them as I’d want my daughters’ teachers to treat them. That’s why I take part in senior projects like the one where I kissed a pig for a student’s fundraiser.

“You have to meet the students where they are,” Maher said. “I can be a different teacher in each class. I engage each student in a manner that works best for them. A shy student? I might have him or her write what they don’t understand on the top of their work page so we can discuss it later. A student so outgoing she’d ask her teachers to kiss a pig? You kiss the pig.”

Maher started her career in business with IBM, working as a systems engineer and worldwide program manager in the networking division for 13 years. She tries to bring that knowledge and those skills to the classroom.

“IBM liked that I had my degree in mathematics,” Maher said. “It meant I could solve problems and break complex situations down into smaller pieces. I always say that the purpose of mathematics is to solve problems, whether they be mathematical in nature or otherwise.”

In her math classes, Maher teaches students how to model “real-wold problems” into mathematical equations and then solve them. She has students collaborate with each other, a technique she adopted from the Bill Gates Foundation — having every student engaged, working together, learning from each other.

“My first job is to build success. My second job is to teach math,” Maher said.

Maher makes her classes relevant to her students’ lives. When she teaches about depreciation in business math, she uses the example of an older cell phone and what it sells for as it becomes an older model.

She has her students defend their conclusions and the judgment used in reaching a solution to a math problem. Maher remembers having an eighth-grader say to her, “What good does it do to solve a problem if you can’t defend it?”

Maher knew at that moment, she had reached him.

Her Etiquette Lunch engages students in reflective conversations about their behavior. She has them tell her “five things about yourself” and then reflects on what they tell her.

Her “Golden Bag” contains slips with the name of each student in the class. Everyone in the class then writes something positive about their peers in the class. Maher later shares the positive messages with each student.

“A compliment is a beautiful way to see how other people see you,” Maher said.

So what would someone write on Maher’s “Golden Bag” slip?

“Marianne is a consummate professional,” said Kim Gallo, principal at Shepaug Valley School. “Every day she takes her experience from the corporate world and uses it to create a classroom atmosphere that is challenging, collegial and fun.

“She develops partnerships with engineering and medical professionals to create a panel discussion in which students interact with professionals in order to inspire and inform them about careers that are available,” Gallo said. “It is not at all surprising that she was recognized by her peers as the best of the best at Shepaug.”