High school seniors try the profession PASADENA


April 02, 1993|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

Only a few male teachers could get away with wearing an earring in one lobe to class. Or female teachers with wearing a lacrosse kilt and T-shirt.

But then, Steve Burr and Nicole Merzendorf aren't your typical teachers. They are two of seven Chesapeake High School seniors who help teach science to fifth-graders through the Anne Arundel County school system's Science Student Teaching Program.

Every Thursday, they visit Jean Snow's fifth-graders at Fort Smallwood Elementary School to teach the latest unit on geology or physics.

The 3-year-old program is open to seniors who have completed biology, chemistry and physics. It gives the high school students a chance to sample the teaching profession and the elementary students a little extra attention.

The seniors -- seven from Chesapeake, three from Glen Burnie High -- meet each Monday after school to discuss the program and their progress. Tuesdays, they plan their lessons, and Wednesdays and Thursdays, they teach.

Yesterday, Steve and Nicole were helping their charges describe the major geological eras. But this was no textbook lesson. Students were divided into small groups to develop posters advertising the Paleozoic or Mesozoic eras as hot vacation spots.

As the students dreamed up slogans, such as "A Blast From the Past" and "Creatures Swam the Ocean Blue, in 600 million You Can Too," Steve and Nicole moved around the room offering assistance.

"I need Steve," one boy called out.

Another student called Nicole over to approve her group's poster.

"I think they look at us as a teacher and a friend," Nicole said. "We're helping them, but they also relate to us because we're close to their age."

Steve and Nicole said they were eyeing careers as teachers before they entered the program, but their year with the fifth-graders has cemented those plans.

"I like the feeling that I'm actually helping somebody," Nicole said. "This has really helped me to see if I want to teach."

And Steve added, "I feel as if I've been given knowledge and should share it. Plus I just get so much from them. If you come in here in a bad mood, they really cheer you up because they're really glad to see you."

The fifth-graders and their full-time teacher say that Steve and Nicole aren't the only ones who get something from the program.

"One of the benefits is that these students have an opportunity to see wonderful role models," Mrs. Snow said. "They are both good students. They come and they share their knowledge and experience with them."

Warren McKeldin, 10, said he looks forward to Steve and Nicole's visits because students receive more individual attention.

"Mrs. Snow usually has to run around here and run around there trying to get to everybody," Warren said. "But now Steve can work with some people, and Nicole can work with some more people, and Mrs. Snow can work with some."

And it doesn't hurt that Steve and Nicole live in the same neighborhoods as the students they teach. Students have seen Nicole playing lacrosse, and they've seen Steve tossing snowballs with the neighborhood kids.

"They understand us," said Mike Fileta, 10. "They're still kids."

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