ON FRIDAY, Oakland Mills Middle School teacher Alberta "Susie" Hix was surprised to learn that she will be honored as Teacher of the Year by Wal-Mart stores -- and her colleagues.
Hix was nominated for the honor, along with sixth-grade team leader George Clifford, by Principal Carl Perkins.
The award recognizes excellence in the teaching profession. Hix has been a science teacher at the school for 24 years and is the school's science team leader.
Each Wal-Mart store nationwide chooses a winner from a field of nominees submitted by school officials.
Hix began her teaching career after graduating in 1958 from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., with a degree in biology.
Her first job was in Baltimore, Ohio. After two years teaching there, she came east with her husband, Don, who is also a teacher.
Both were looking for work in Baltimore because relatives already working as teachers in the area spoke well of the opportunities.
Don Hix was soon hired to teach in his field -- instrumental music -- in Baltimore City schools.
But the young science teacher struck out on her job search. Her biology degree might have opened other doors, but Alberta Hix wanted to be in the classroom.
She visited rural Howard County, where prospects in the growing school system seemed brighter. She was hired in 1960 to teach science at the old Ellicott City Junior High School.
In 1975, Hix was assigned to the new Oakland Mills Middle School. That year, she earned her master's degree in physical sciences from Morgan State University. She has been teaching science at Oakland Mills ever since.
With so many years in the area, Hix can reflect on how things have changed.
"Back in the '60s, the county provided well for the students," she recalls, "but all they needed then was pencil and paper. Modern technical advances now require a greater investment and additional funding."
Ruefully, she mentions other changes that have come with the times. "Parents had a lot more faith in the system then, class behavior was different," she said, "and kids were interested in getting an education."
After four decades in the Howard County school system, the veteran educator expresses no regrets. She has enjoyed watching her students grow and flourish.
"I like the kids," she says. "That's why I'm in education and not in the research lab. The reward is when they come back and tell you of their success."
Looking back over the years, Hix is sure that she and her husband made the right choice in coming to Howard County. Her daughter Katherine is a science teacher at Clarksville Middle School, and her son, Dr. Raphael Hix, is a research astrophysicist at Oakridge Laboratory in Knoxville, Tenn.
Hix says, "The Howard County schools treated my kids very, very well."
Perkins and representatives from Wal-Mart will present the awards during a faculty meeting at the school on May 17.
Best in the world
Raymond Yang of Kings Contrivance and Shawn Talley of Owen Brown, two east Columbians, were among nine students at Nam's Martial Arts who earned medals in sparring matches in the 19th Junior Olympic Maryland State and Mayor Cup Open Tae Kwon Do Championship competition May 1.
Yang earned second place while Talley came in first.
Nam's, at 8950 Route 108, was named as one of the top 10 martial arts schools in the world for 1999 by the World Martial Arts Research Foundation.
In a ceremony at the school, Master Chung Koo Nam was awarded the honor by Grand Master Y. K. Kim -- chairman and founder of the World Martial Arts foundation, an organization that promotes martial arts education.
Kim began the evening with a leadership seminar, called "Winning Is a Choice." He lectured for more than an hour on the way to become a great leader and realize your dreams through the discipline of martial arts.
About 200 people -- students and their families -- heard the presentation.
Nam, who holds a sixth-degree black belt in the martial arts Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido, also has been certified as a Third Class International Referee. He expects to participate in this capacity in the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, next year.
Long Reach High School held a Career Connections Fair on Wednesday.
Local businesses and government agencies set up booths and displayed information about career opportunities.
Students met with business and community representatives in the school's sunny atrium. Participants were Opal Computers, Kohl's Department Stores, Pepsi Cola Co., Grinnell Fire Protection Systems, CompUSA Stores, United Parcel Service, the Howard County state's attorney's office, Laurel Regional Hospital, Maryland Transportation Police, Elkridge Furnace Inn and Howard Community College.
The Elkridge Furnace Inn performed double duty by also catering the event.
John Claus, human resources manager for Pepsi Cola, talked to about 100 students. He came away impressed by the responses he got.