Tinfoil crown, golden praise Educator: North Carroll Middle School math teacher Judy Gehr, known to students as the "Homework Queen," is the county's nominee for Maryland Teacher of the Year.

June 05, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Judy Gehr's students call her "the Homework Queen" and crown her in tinfoil. But this year, the school board calls her "Carroll County Teacher of the Year.

Gehr is the board's nominee for Maryland Teacher of the Year, which is sponsored by the state Department of Education. The winner will be announced next fall. She has taught in Carroll for 22 years -- the first 16 at Manchester Elementary and the last six at North Carroll Middle School.

A lively teacher known for infusing math lessons with realistic situations, Gehr has a reputation for high standards and giving students more than one chance to reach them. She started an after-school math workshop for extra help.

And she has a reputation for homework -- about 20 minutes a night, by her estimation, to do 10 to 15 problems to practice what they learned in class. Even on Fridays.

"I don't give them a night off too often," she says. "I tell them it's just like Cal Ripken taking batting practice."

One of her most recent lessons involved baseball: She created a unit called "The Family Bond," about father-son baseball players Barry and Bobby Bonds, comparing their statistics and graphing them.

All teachers strive for "authentic instruction," applying lessons to real-life situations, Gehr said. But that trend has been more focused in the past seven years for her, she said, as the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has emphasized it.

At the same time, education reform in Carroll County and at the state level have followed that philosophy, and built a whole measurement program -- the Maryland School Performance and Assessment Program -- on it.

Gehr has been active in that movement, writing sample tasks and lessons with other teachers from around the state to share with their colleagues.

"She has a real spark and enthusiasm. She's very animated, and the kids respond to that," said Larry Houser, supervisor of math for Carroll schools.

"I've worked with no better teacher than Mrs. Gehr," he said.

Two of her students, Darilyn Peake and Kristen Shields, wrote her a letter of recommendation for the state award:

"For one, Mrs. Gehr makes learning math fun and easy to understand," they wrote. They highlighted her teaching strategies: doing daily warm-ups and having students keep notes on what they learn for reference and portfolios of their work.

"Overall, there are many reasons why Mrs. Gehr should get the award," they wrote. "So, take our word for it, she deserves it more than you would ever know."

And just as Bobby Bonds followed his father into baseball, Gehr's daughter, Leza Ray Jefferis, followed her into education. Jefferis is a science teacher at Sykesville Middle School. Several times a week, they talk shop. Usually Jefferis is asking for advice or reaction.

"There are times I ask her for advice, too," Gehr said.

Pub Date: 6/05/96

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