In Joan Kotzin's fifth-grade class at Point Pleasant Elementary, onenew student doesn't quite fit in.
For one thing, she's about a foot-and-a-half taller and 12 years older than the other students. And,for another, she drives to school.
Michelle Wicks, an elementary education major at Towson State University, is one of nine student-teachers gaining classroom experienceduring 14 weeks of training at the Glen Burnie school this fall.
As part of Towson's regular curriculum, student-teachers spend a fullsemester in the classroom -- six weeks longer than the state's eight-week requirement to become certified.
The Towson program, which has been run out of Point Pleasant since 1984, is an "overall win-win situation" for the elementary school, principal Evelyn Reed said.
"Teachers feel it's a compliment and an honor to have a student-teacher. I've never had anyone turn me down," she said. "The program provides additional enrichment for the school. It brings new ideas, new blood into the school."
On Monday afternoon, Wicks, 22, was working her fifth-grade classroom like a pro. She walked around answering questions and holding up her index finger in that teacher-like way that means, "Don't interrupt me -- I'll be right with you."
The fifth-graders in Wick's class were impressed.
"I love her," said Heather Chrystal, 10. "She's a real joker. She laughs a lot."
"She loves to teach social studies, that's for sure," said Danielle Saxon, 10. "She likes to give lots of specifics. And when you ask something, she'll say, 'That's a good question.' "
Dylan Silcox, 10, said he likeshis student-teacher because she helps answer his questions. Her one fault, he said, is that she can be pretty strict.
"She'll give youtime off recess if you deserve it," he said. "But if you're nice to her, she's nice to you."
Kotzin, a 22-year veteran at Point Pleasant who has had many student-teachers in her classroom, said she likesthe interaction with Towson students.
"I enjoy teaching on different levels. I enjoy teaching children, but I like teaching adults, too," she said. "Sometimes you like to talk to someone who is more than4 feet tall."
Kotzin has had student-teachers with varying degrees of skill. She ranks Wicks, an Arnold native, at the top of the scale.
"Michelle is terrific. She has a lot of poise for a new teacher," said Kotzin. "She seems like she's been doing this for a long time."
Despite her natural talent as a teacher, Wicks said the tips she's getting from Kotzin are invaluable. The experience of student-teaching is a necessary step in becoming effective, she said.
"You need this. This is where you learn it -- how to be a teacher," she said.
Teachers at the school said having a student-teacher adds to their workload. Most said it takes an extra 1 1/2 to 2 hours daily to goover the student's lesson plans in the morning and review their performance each afternoon.
But teachers said they enjoy having student-teachers even if it requires more work.
"Sometimes it helps to give you a better perspective on what you're doing," said Kotzin. "It helps being able to talk things over with someone else."
Judy Green, a former student-teacher at Point Pleasant who now has a student-teacher in her classroom, said interacting with the college students helps keep teachers abreast of the latest trends in education.
"We're exposed to the newest ideas in education that they learn," she said.
Kotzin said most student-teachers come to the classroom with good basic skills but need to work on their teaching techniques and "classroom management."
Simple things, like getting students to line up, can be a problem for a new teacher.
"They always say, 'OK, line up,' " said Green, "and then there's chaos. Kids running all over."
The novices soon learn to give specific directions, she said, such as calling students row by row, or first the girls, then the boys.
"I have learned so much here in just three weeks," said Susan Karpus, 24, of Catonsville. "I've gotten ideas about how to make things run more smoothly and learned how important it is to give clear directions."
Keith Martin, a Towson professor who runs the Point Pleasant teacher-education center, said the primary goal of the program is to put students in a "positive class room environment" with good role models.
"In this school, the teachers exhibit a clear interest in helping student-teachers develop," he said.
Towson has several teacher-education centers in Baltimore, Carroll and Harford counties andBaltimore City, but Point Pleasant is the only center in Anne Arundel County.
Reed said many county elementary schools would like to have a center, because the school gains so much from having student-teachers. The reason Towson selected Point Pleasant, she said, was because the school had initiated some innovative programs that gained recognition outside the county.
Martin, who has supervised student-teachers at a number of schools, said the quality of the classroom teachers and level of administrative support at Point Pleasant have made it one of Towson's best centers.
One indicator of its success is the number of student-teachers who hope to get jobs at Point Pleasant or elsewhere in the county when they graduate.
Four years ago, when Point Pleasant had several openings, four student-teachers took jobs at the school when they finished their placements.
"I would loveto come back to this school to teach," said Wicks. "From what I see,it's excellent. I think it's a really neat school."