Teacher can't wait to start

August 29, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

Welcome to the Peaceful Kingdom.

You'll find the place, whose name is a play on "Wild Kingdom," in Stephanie Lerner's fourth-grade classroom at Longfellow Elementary School -- a room neatly decorated with pictures of dogs, bunnies and fish, and a basket of well-worn teddy bears.

"I sort of designed my room around the animal theme because I like it a lot, and that's what children this age like the most," said Ms. Lerner, one of Howard County's 215 new teachers.

In the past two weeks, she and her fellow new teachers have been gearing up for their first day in one of Maryland's premier school systems. They've attended a weeklong new teachers orientation, and they've had the chance to meet with experienced teachers to learn classroom tips.

They've also gone through daylong workshops involving curriculum planning.

"I'm so excited," the recent University of Maryland-College Park graduate said Friday, wearing a big smile, a white blouse and a flowing printed skirt. "I can't wait. This is what I've been practicing for four years, and now it's here."

She was putting the finishing touches on her classroom, placing cards with students' names on desks and fastening them with a roll of clear tape. Her room, with enough seats for roughly 25 students, is part of the west Columbia school's new wing, built this year.

Colorful, plastic passes to the bathroom, hall and office hung neatly from strings on a corner blackboard, with "Lerner" printed on the back of each pass. Most everything else, including erasers, magnets and a clock timer, also had her name inscribed.

"I've been working all week for this," she said, looking around her room, "and I'm ready for someone to come in here and see it. The nerves are something I'm not concerned about because the resources are here. The teachers come in and say, 'You know, it's OK to ask questions.' "

A product of the Howard County school system and daughter of two county educators, she has always wanted to be a teacher.

"As a child, I liked to play school," she said. "My younger brother always played a student, although I don't know if he wanted to do that or not."

She got her first experience in the classroom early on -- in high school, when she enrolled in a program in which her mentor was her fifth-grade math teacher, David Ortega at Jeffers Hill Elementary School.

"She's very sharp, very motivated," Mr. Ortega said. "Very eager to learn, always wanted to do more than was asked of her. She was always asking questions and wanting to pitch right in."

Her parents, Harry Lerner, assistant principal at Bushy Park Elementary School, and Joan Lerner, a first-grade teacher at Laurel Woods Elementary School, are happy that their 21-year-old daughter followed in their footsteps.

"We're just so proud," Mrs. Lerner says. "The other day, we had an all-staff in-service . . . and it was so unusual for me to go and see my daughter at an in-service. I found myself just staring at her. It was a really weird feeling. Then I took her and introduced her to various people who knew her when she was growing up."

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