November 04, 1993

By selecting Dorothy Farley as Maryland's high school English teacher of the year, the Maryland Council of Teachers of English has honored a deserving instructor. Affectionately known as "Far" by her students at Liberty High School, Ms. Farley embodies all the qualities of an excellent educator.

She is demanding, flexible, attentive, enthusiastic, helpful. Although she teaches English, she sees her job as one of introducing high school students to the rich, rewarding and complex world of literature. She not only wants her students to read and write; she requires that they think.

In her course on the 20th century novel, Ms. Farley expects students to read a novel every two weeks. She admits the assigned books are "challenging" and uses a variety of methods to ensure that her pupils understand the material.

If they are struggling, Ms. Farley allows them to use study guides, because she's focused on a greater goal. Ms. Farley wants her students to get involved in their work. She assumes all of them can understand the plot and major facts, so she hones in on getting them to extract meaning from their readings.

By having her pupils ask and answer their own questions, Ms. Farley is able to engage them. Over time, the students realize that the more they bring to the class, the more they get out of it.

Ms. Farley is just as demanding of the school system. Directives from desk-bound administrators bother her. She believes that teachers know best how to instruct students. She doesn't like packaged curriculum that limits the material to be taught. For her, the boundaries of learning are limitless.

She also doesn't appreciate when parents, administrators or others dictate what is to be read in her classroom. Though she offers alternatives if a book makes a student or parent uncomfortable, she notes, quite properly, that "one parent's objection cannot erase everyone's 'right to read.' " Ms. Farley was in the forefront of an effort to restore to the curriculum a modern translation of the Babylonian epic "Gilgamesh," after an administrator had removed it.

Dorothy Farley is a deserving recipient of this award. The real testament to her value, though, are the hundreds of her students who have learned to appreciate reading and thinking.

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