Mary White sighs when she thinks about the 20 years it took to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher.
During a three-day orientationfor new county teachers that ended yesterday, White found herself among 170 newcomers -- all with a vision of helping to shape the world through the students they will meet on Sept. 3.
For the last four years, new teachers have been welcomed, trainedand armed with the basic tools through orientation programs run by the Staff Development Training Center at Carver Elementary in Crofton.
White was one of 63 new teachers with no experience.
Before this, life for White consisted of caring for her husband and four children while shelving personal plans. As a teaching assistant in the county from 1966 to 1989, she fit in courses when she could. Two years ago, she took a leave of absence to become a full-time student at Bowie State University.
On May 11, White clutched her diploma and realized her lifelong dream -- and that of her mother -- of becoming a teacher.
Her mother wasn't able to make her dream come true, but White was. And so has her daughter, Marvis White, who has five years experience as a teacher and now works at High Point Elementary.
Mary White will be assigned to Central Elementary, teaching an Early Childhood Intervention class for 3- to 5-year-olds with disabilities. Her B.A. degree is in early childhood and special education.
A smile flashes when she talks about the challenges that await her. She says she wants to share the story of her struggle with students who may have doubts about fitting in.
"It's really true, you can be anything you want to be," White said. "My experiences will help, especially with this group of children who may need some extra help from me. I'll just think back on the many, many people who helped me. It's a chanceto give back."
This year has yielded a combination of veteran teachers returning to the classroom and rookie teachers with no experience.
Craig Harvey, a veteran of the Harford County school system, will teach instrumental music at Annapolis Middle -- as well as continue in his position as director of the Baltimore Colts Marching Band.
"I left teaching for a while, but I decided I missed it," Harvey said. "When a smile goes across a kid's face and the light bulb isabove their head and you can see the concept is sinking in, that's one ofthe rewards of teaching. They are future lawyers, doctors and judges. It's people that we are molding."
Mike Hughes left a 12-year career in Philadelphia public schools to teach fifth grade at Eastport Elementary. The former stock broker was manager for the 1988 U.S. Olympic rowing team during the games in Seoul, Korea.
Along with teaching, he will coach the lightweight varsity rowing team at the Naval Academy.
"I love teaching," Hughes said. "I try to create an atmosphere where people can grow. We're the guides. I use the same value concepts that I use with the young men at the Naval Academy, to strive for excellence in everything that you do. It's a great job, and they pay you for it."
The busy orientation included information on procedures, time management and morale.
But even as the mad rush was ending, Katherine Henry, the school system's coordinator of staff development, already was planning a mid-year orientation for teachers yetto be hired.
Until six years ago, there was no formal orientationfor new county teachers.
"Teaching is a serious business," Henry said. "It's how we train our staff that will determine the direction they will go in. Too many (teachers) don't expect much. That's not good enough for our kids. We need high expectations."