Educator Of The Month: Michael Kahn

Folger McKinsey Elementary School


While May was Mental Health Awareness Month across the U.S., Folger McKinsey Elementary School’s Michael Kahn prioritizes it all year in his role as a counselor at the Severna Park-based school.

“Mr. Kahn is one of the most kind, caring and hardworking individuals I have ever seen working in any position, at any school,” said Folger McKinsey Elementary Principal Jason Otte.

Kahn, who is wrapping up his 10th year as a school counselor, has been on Folger’s staff for four years. He spent his first six years as a counselor at Corkran Middle School in Glen Burnie, Maryland. Before that, Kahn taught elementary school for 10 years at a pair of Maryland schools.

When Kahn became a teacher, he began to see the possibilities of how a school counselor could affect the entire school culture.

“I started to learn that the school counseling profession had become a career where you could focus on the emotional and academic well-being of children,” Kahn said.

Kahn remembers his experiences with school counselors in high school.

“I often saw them in the old guidance counselor model, where all they did was give you an interest survey and tell you if you should go to college or get a job,” he said.

Fast forward to two years ago, when Kahn began work on helping Folger become a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) school. Not his first time utilizing PBIS, but first time as a lead and seeing the system built, rather than joining an already established culture.

One of the first goals of a PBIS team is to develop a set of three to five schoolwide expectations that all students and staff can reference. Kahn’s team came up with HOOT — a nod to their Owls mascot. Kahn explained the letters stand for honor, other people matter, own it and take action.

“Our team believes that if students can demonstrate these expectations, they are going to be successful socially, emotionally and academically,” Kahn said.

The benefits of PBIS are two-fold. For one, it puts a schoolwide focus on recognizing and celebrating students for their achievements. Additionally, the system allows students who are struggling with those expectations to be identified and supported to work toward making improvements.

Kahn knew introducing an entirely new system after a year of virtual and hybrid instruction wouldn’t be easy. So, his team agreed they would focus on HOOT expectations becoming well known and part of the school vernacular from the start.

“I was afforded the opportunity to make daily videos for students to teach them how to ‘HOOT,” Kahn shared. “It started as an introduction to the expectations and eventually took on a life of its own.”

In a short two years — with Kahn’s leadership — they have created a schoolwide recognition system, a quarterly HOOTing Hall of Fame ceremony, schoolwide HOOTing celebrations, and according to Kahn, “enough student HOOTing artwork to fill up the Smithsonian.”

When Kahn isn’t in the throes of his HOOT work, he finds time to act as coordinator for the Harvest for the Hungry campaign, an annual food and money drive that benefits the Anne Arundel County Food Bank. Folger has been in the top 10 of all public county schools each year in combined food/money donations.

It's clear Kahn loves his job not only for his passion for student mental health but also by how fast the school day flies by.

Kahn starts his day by greeting as many students as he can. Then, he joins a class for a morning wellness block, so he can participate in a community building circle to get to know students better or a Second Step lesson. Second Step lessons are chances for teachers to introduce and review skills including growth mindset, goal setting, empathy, kindness and problem solving. Every day then becomes a blur of classroom lessons, student support, high-fives, reflections, meetings, lunch bunches and more.

“I feel like I blink, and it's time to get ready for dismissal,” Kahn said.

Otte noted how much Kahn gives to the students, families and staff at Folger.

“He is a difference maker!” Otte said.

Cafe Mezzanotte is a proud sponsor of Educator of the Month. To nominate a teacher, guidance counselor, principal or other educator, email


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