Kevin Barry Named 2024 James B. Binko Award Winner for Outstanding Geography Educator-of-the-Year

Friday, June 7, 2024 – The winner of the Maryland Geographic Alliance’s James B. Binko Outstanding Geography Educator-of-the-Year Award is Kevin Barry of Charles County Public Schools. He is a social studies teacher and department chair at La Plata High School.

This prestigious award recognizes teachers who have made significant contributions to the advancement of geography education in Maryland and inspired students to engage with geography in meaningful ways. Mr. Barry’s innovative teaching methods and dedication to his students have made him a standout choice for this honor.

At La Plata High School, Mr. Barry has been a passionate advocate for geography education since he began teaching Advanced Placement Human Geography. His approach goes beyond preparing students for AP exams; he aims to transform their understanding of the world and inspire them to use geographic knowledge to make a difference. Since 2019, Mr. Barry has mentored students as they do geographic research projects for the annual “Mapping Maryland” ArcGIS Student Map Competition. Of all Maryland high schools, La Plata High School has been the leading producer of student winners for this competition. One of Mr. Barry’s students researched, “Lead Exposure in Baltimore,” and she won national accolades for her research. In addition, another student landed a summer internship as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology intern with the local county government.​​ Take together, this is compelling evidence of Mr. Barry’s excellence in geography education. 

Mr. Barry’s commitment to integrating GIS technology into his curriculum has been instrumental in enhancing geographic learning. His collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency to create a Zombie Outbreak/Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Simulation showcases his innovative approach to teaching. This project not only teaches students practical GIS skills but also demonstrates the real-world applications of geography in emergency situations.

This award is named for Dr. James B. Binko, a lifelong advocate for geography education. Spanning more than 50 years, his career included work as a Maryland public schoolteacher, an education professor and dean of the College of Education at Towson University, and an educational consultant for the National Geographic Society.

Introducing the James B. Binko Award Winner for the 2023 Outstanding Geography Educator-of-the-Year: Dustin Rhodes

The winner of the Maryland Geographic Alliance’s James B. Binko Outstanding Geography Educator-of-the-Year Award is Dustin Rhodes of Harford County Public Schools.

Currently, Mr. Rhodes teaches sixth-grade contemporary world geography at Magnolia Middle School. His innovative teaching has been highlighted on Baltimore’s WBAL news as well as in a National Education Association publication, serving as a public record of his commitment to geographic literacy and global understanding. Prior to his career in teaching, Mr. Rhodes served in the U.S. Air Force.

In a letter of support, Supervisor of Social Studies for Harford County Public Schools, Erin Lange, stated that “Time and again, Dustin has shown himself to be a risk-taker instructionally in order to meet the needs of the students in his care and to grow their capacity for geographic thinking. From his work tackling the geopolitical crisis in Ukraine to a Model United Nations project-based learning unit, Mr. Rhodes is constantly pushing his own pedagogy in order to inspire and challenge his students.”

One example of Mr. Rhodes’ outstanding work with geography has been his students’ use of interactive maps to explore the physical and human geography of Ukraine in relation to the ongoing conflict with Russia. Ms. Lange sums up Mr. Rhodes’s influence by noting that “his classroom is a place where students feel a sense of belonging and are empowered to think critically about geographic themes.” For more about Mr. Rhodes’ teaching about the war in Ukraine, see

This award is named for Dr. James B. Binko, a lifelong advocate for geography education. Spanning more than 50 years, his remarkable career included work as a Maryland public schoolteacher, an education professor and dean of the College of Education at Towson University, and an educational consultant for the National Geographic Society.

Geography Educators of Maryland: Cathy Cooper

Our next featured “Geography Educator of Maryland” is Cathy Cooper. As a valued steering committee member of the Maryland Geographic Alliance, Cathy is no stranger to the field of geography. Geography education was not Cathy’s first vocation, however. Her first job after college was in London working for a British bank. Working here helped spur her interest in geography as many of her colleagues seemed to know where every place in the world was. Living in London provided the opportunity for extended travel in Europe. Cathy spent most of her career in commercial banking. Eventually she had the opportunity to take a few geography courses at Montgomery College, and she decided to pursue geography.


Cathy went on to complete her M.A. in Geography and Ph.D. in Geographic Education at George Washington University and Texas State University-San Marcos, respectively. Throughout her geography career, she has been a part of many different organizations and always looks forward to seeing her “geo-friends.” As a member of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), she has organized some bird-watching field trips during the organization’s annual meetings. Cathy also recently attended the conference for the Middle Atlantic Division of the AAG. Among the highlights was the GeoBowl, a geography knowledge competition amongst university students in the region. Cathy is looking forward to the intriguing field trips offered at the National Council for Geographic Education Conference this July in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Cathy also serves as a contributor for different publishers and academic journals. Her most recent contribution for the Journal of Geography was a review of Choptank Odyssey by Tom Horton and Dave Harp. Cathy has also written a textbook on Ukraine and continues to follow the political developments of the country. She particularly enjoys studying and writing about her home region of the Chesapeake, as evidenced by her article about Captain John Smith’s explorations of the Chesapeake Bay and the coastal bays region near Assateague Island. While Cathy is not attending conferences or writing for academic journals she is busy helping out the Maryland Geographic Alliance with outreach events for the Giant Traveling Map of Maryland (find out more about this program here).


From Cathy’s perspective, not only is geography the foundation for and gateway into a wide range of careers; it also engages students of all grade levels in building their knowledge and problem solving skills at increasing levels of complexity. Students of geography are also able to apply a spatial perspective to civic issues of varying scales – from the local to the global.


Biography: Cathy spent most of her career in commercial banking. She then picked up an interest in academic geography and earned an M.A. at George Washington University and then a Ph.D. in Geography at Texas State University-San Marcos with a concentration in Geographic Education. She is particularly enthusiastic about online GIS and encourages its use as a tool in its own right and as a gateway to entice students into the content of geography.

Read the full Q&A here.

Geography Educators of Maryland: Daniel Whalen

Our next interviewee for the Geography Educators of Maryland series is Daniel Whalen. We recently talked with him about his recent visit to South Korea for the 7th International Conference on Geographic Naming and Education, his experience as a geography educator, and the importance of a geographic education.

Mr. Whalen’s experience in geography stems from his expertise in history. Before arriving to university, he generally viewed geography through an historical lens. He remembers a particular class assignment, however, that helped broaden his scope on the geography discipline. He recalls riding through downtown Albany, New York in the comfort of a ’95 Ford Escort, observing the distribution of low income communities across the neighborhoods. The changes in the human landscape helped him understand his own cultural identity and relative privilege.

From then on, Mr. Whalen has been very involved in the realm of geography education. During his first teaching assignment, he taught three seventh grade classes of Geography of the Western Hemisphere. In a few years, he was writing AP Human Geography curriculum for Prince George’s County Public Schools, eventually going on to be a Reader for the ETS and College Board.

Mr. Whalen has also taken part in many different geography education conferences and institutes. In the summer of 2015, he attended the NCGE Conference, where he volunteered and networked with the presenters. The Virginia Geographic Alliance sponsored Mr. Whalen in an introductory, five week long ArcGIS online course called “Putting Social Studies in its Place.”

The most recent conference he attended, the 7th International Conference on Geographic Naming and Education, was held in Seoul, South Korea.Displaying 20160628_043110.jpg The Northeast Asian History Foundation graciously sponsored his trip. While there, Mr. Whalen gave a presentation on geographic connections between Southern Maryland and South Korea. He was also able to visit the Seonunsa Korean Buddhist Temple, where a monk led the group in morning prayers and meditation.  Take a look below for some photos from his visit. You can check out more posts about Mr. Whalen’s trip here.


APHG Korea 2016


All photos courtesy of Daniel Whalen.

All photos courtesy of Daniel Whalen.

In an ever-globalizing world, people have more opportunities to participate in international and cross-cultural events like this. Mr. Whalen explains that the impact from globalization along with social media means K-12 students and interconnected more than ever. With that, geography education should be more prevalent within K-12 curricula as it would allow students to realize the importance of “global thinking for a world that’s shrinking.”

Read the entire interview here.

Check out Daniel Whalen’s blog at

The Maryland Geographic Alliance: Who we are, what we do, and how you can help!

The Maryland Geographic Alliance has been at its new home at Towson for about six months. Since that time, we have launched this website and a companion Facebook page (Maryland Geographic Alliance) and put together a steering committee. We are planning professional development, workshops, summer institutes, and student programs centered on four major foci: AP Human Geography, middle school World Cultures, geospatial thinking and technology, and environmental literacy.


So far, we have held a number of events across Maryland geared toward these four foci. At the Baltimore Kid’s Mapping Project Workshop, twelve public school teachers came to Towson to develop their GIS skills through ArcGIS Online. These teachers constructed neighborhood story maps to commemorate the first anniversary of the death of Freddie Gray. We also helped support the week-long BioBlitz in Howard County that turned over three hundred HCPS students into citizen scientists.  Last weekend, we helped support the National Aquarium’s BioBlitz out at Masonville Cove.


Let me tell you about the Masonville Cove BioBlitz. It was fantastic! Students, educators, and other community members were able to learn about the biodiversity of the area thanks to the coordination of the National Aquarium and Masonville Cove. There were six well-planned stations that covered mammals, reptiles and amphibians, plants, insects, birds, and aquatic species. Seasoned experts and young newcomers worked together through thoughtful and engaging activities. To top it off, it was a gorgeous day just to be outside and enjoy nature.


So what was the issue?


The issue was that there weren’t enough people taking advantage of the beautiful weather and fascinating activities to increase their environmental literacy. Similar issues arose at the Baltimore Kid’s Mapping Project; though it was a thoughtful event, it could have greatly benefitted from more teachers. How do we get the word out to get more people to participate?


That is where you come in! Choose to get involved by sending your ideas or telling us what kind of support you need. Attend an event; suggest an event. Consider applying for Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS (a workshop every summer held by ESRI) or the American Geographical Society Teaching Fellowship. (For more information about those, check out our Facebook page). Spread the word to your friends and colleagues. Are there non-profit organizations or professional groups who are natural fits? Could we work with Scouting groups or 4-H? What about private schools? And how can we reach these groups?


As you can see, I have a lot of questions – but I know that you have the answers!

Guide to Masonville Cove BioBlitz. Participants received stamps from each station they visited.

Guide to Masonville Cove BioBlitz. Participants received stamps from each station they visited.

Welcome to Our Blog

Welcome to the inaugural blog of the Maryland Geographic Alliance. Late Fall 2015, Towson University became host of the MGA. Todd Kenreich (Department of Secondary Education) and I (Department of Geography) became co-coordinators. We are eager to build a network of teachers and institutions to help spread geographic education across the state. We hope to work across multiple colleges and universities as well as education organizations, science centers and museums to turn the MGA into one of the most vibrant alliances in the country. To do that, we will need your ideas and energy. Please consider joining the MGA today. We look forward to hearing from you.