After 23 years, teacher still loves job

April 23, 1995|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,Sun Staff Writer

This year's Harford County Teacher of the Year will receive the free use of a new car for a year, a watch, a painting and other rewards in addition to the award. It's the first year such prizes have been offered to the winner.

But Marybeth Ford, a reading teacher at Emmorton Elementary School, says representing her fellow teachers as Harford County's current teacher of the year was enough of a reward. "Just to have the recognition that parents or students or whoever respect what you're doing, I think that's real good," she said.

Mrs. Ford was recognized after 22 years of teaching English, reading and study skills at Bel Air High School. The 44-year-old Forest Hill resident has spent her entire career teaching in

Harford public schools, and she wouldn't have it any other way.

"I'm one of those teachers that even though it's my 23rd year, I still love it. I still get butterflies in my stomach before every new year," she said.

Mrs. Ford said she knew teaching at Bel Air High School was her destiny when she pulled into the school parking lot for her interview.

"I got out of my car, and there was a penny," she said. "And I picked up the penny, and said, 'This is my lucky day.' " Later that day, the principal took her on a tour of the school. "All of a sudden, the principal stopped, picked up a penny, and said, 'This is my lucky day.' "

While teaching English at Bel Air, Mrs. Ford noticed some students "quietly failing" in the back of her classes. Mrs. Ford, who earned a bachelor's degree in English education from Wittenberg University in Ohio and a master of liberal arts degree from the Johns Hopkins University, decided to go back to Hopkins for a master of science in reading so she could teach basic reading skills to students needing help.

That role expanded to include developing and teaching a popular study skills course, and soon that consumed most of her time. But helping students improve their reading skills was her first love.

"I knew that more kids were graduating, and I should have been satisfied with that," she said. "They had enough support to kind of keep their heads above water, but it wasn't changing their [reading] skills."

So this school year, Mrs. Ford jumped from high school to elementary school to get back to the fundamentals of reading -- and to help pupils earlier in their development.

The biggest difference between teaching high school and elementary school students is the level of enthusiasm, Mrs. Ford said.

In high school, she found herself trying to ignite a spark of interest.

But not at the brand new Emmorton Elementary School.

"When the bell rings and you open those doors, they fly in," she said.

And Mrs. Ford is enthusiastic about her plans for the young students. After founding the county's high school forensics (debate) program about 20 years ago, Mrs. Ford wants to start a public-speaking program for elementary school students next year.

As a sophomore in high school in Kentucky, Mrs. Ford overcame a stuttering problem to win a state championship in forensics for her reading of the essay "What is courage?"

She credits that experience with giving her the confidence to become a teacher, and she says elementary school students are not too young to gain from a similar experience.

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