WESTMINSTER — Nineteen years ago, first-grader Wanda McNeave learned to read and write in Linda Witter's classroom at William Winchester Elementary School.
McNeave, now 25, is today teaching other children to read andwrite in the same classroom -- with the help of her first-grade teacher.
"It's a little strange," McNeave said. "It felt strange last yearto be a substitute in the same school where I went to school. But tobe in the same classroom with the same teacher . . . I don't think it ever happens. I'm kind of honored."
McNeave and Witter are teaching a Collegial Chapter One class, which consists of 25 first-grade students, about half of whom have been identified with special needs. These students completed kindergarten having trouble identifying letters, names or rhyming words.
The program, subsidized by the federal government, requires both an experienced teacher and a beginning teacher, allowing the special needs students to receive individual attention while working in the same classroom as other students.
Both sets of students benefit from the mix, said Witter, who has been teaching in Carroll County for 26 years -- 20 years in the same classroom.
This year, though, marks the first time the 48-year-old Westminster resident has shared a classroom with someone other than parent volunteers or instructional aides.
"I'm delighted a former student has gone into education and has become a first-grade teacher," Witter said. "I feel a tremendous sense of pride and success. I can see how she has matured, how she has grown, and her professionalism."
"I can remember having her in class," Witter said. "Probably what I remember is that she did fine, because I don't remember anything negative.She was called Wanda then."
McNeave prefers to be called Wendy now. Although the Westminster resident doesn't remember details about her year in first grade, she does recall Witter.
"I remember Mrs. Witter," McNeave said. "I don't think she looks any different now thanshe did then. She doesn't look any older to me. I remember her as being a nice teacher."
In the classroom, Witter and McNeave take turns teaching math, reading, language arts and working on enrichment exercises with the special needs students.
Sharing a classroom with another teacher has benefited McNeave, who is one of about 100 new teachers to enter the Carroll school system this year. She graduated from Towson State University with a degree in elementary education in early 1989 and served as a substitute teacher in Carroll schools before landing a full-time job with the district.
"I ask her a lot of questions," McNeave said. "She's like a walking encyclopedia. She has a lot of knowledge. She helps with the new-teacher program, so I'm not the only one who thinks she's a great teacher."
Witter helps first-grade teachers become acquainted with curriculum and "other thingsthey need to do when they get into the classroom" during the district's annual in-service induction for beginning teachers.
The inductees include teachers just out of college and those entering the system.
McNeave said she has asked Witter countless questions about curriculum and lesson plans.
Just the night before, McNeave called Witter to discuss her lesson plans. She felt uncomfortable with them and, after talking to Witter, trimmed the plan to a single lesson on identifying color words.
"I had three skills for them to learn in the lesson plan," she said. "That's too much."
Witter doesn't mind the questions. She said it's important to have a good rapport between two teachers sharing a classroom. She said she and her former studentestablished a professional relationship quickly.
"I'm glad she feels at ease to come to me with questions," Witter said.
But Witteris learning from McNeave, too.
"I learn from her when I have a moment to watch what she's doing," Witter said. "She's doing great."