Wanted: more teachers

Career day targets high school juniors as future educators

April 27, 2001|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,SUN STAFF

Andrew Nelson is big man on campus all over again.

Nelson, a student teacher in an Arnold Elementary School third-grade classroom, went to a job fair in Baltimore last week in search of permanent employment after college graduation.

"It's a little ego trip. Everyone's looking for teachers," he conceded yesterday as he described the experience to a roomful of high school juniors who might soon embark on their career paths.

Anne Arundel County is no exception. It will hire 750 teachers in time for the start of school in August, part of the 10,350 additional teachers that will be needed in Maryland before the beginning of the next school year, state figures show. A year later, Maryland is expected to need another 12,000 teachers - triple the number of new hires six years ago.

So Anne Arundel Community College and the county school system held a Teacher Education Career Day yesterday at the college - drawing 85 juniors from 10 high schools - in hopes of finding some of those future teachers.

"There's a big shortage of teachers throughout the state," said Karl Behringer, coordinator of career and continuing education for Anne Arundel County Schools. "We always promote everyone else's career, and for the longest time we weren't promoting [teaching] among our own students. That didn't make any sense. Now we're doing this."

Martha A. Smith, president of the college, told the students that soon they could enter a new course of study - an associate of arts degree in teaching. The credits earned completing that program, she said, could be transferred to one of the state's four-year colleges and be applied toward a bachelor's degree, without having to retake any courses.

"Since I could remember, I always wanted to be a teacher," said an inspired Dominique Carter, a 16-year-old from North County High School. "I feel like I'm actually going to get to do what I want to do."

A panel of first-year teachers answered a variety of questions from the aspiring teachers. They told of how they teach lessons from books, but also find themselves teaching other kinds of lessons in the soap opera of everyday life: The relationships and the breakups, the fights and the making up, the laughing and the crying. They spoke about classroom management, about trying new things while trying to keep up with the rigors of the curriculum, and, of course, about teachers' pay.

The salary, said Southern High English teacher Kevin Frank, could be improved. "I do a lot," he said. "I want to get paid for it. The money is livable, but I'm not giving up" on fighting for more.

Teaching isn't for everyone, they said. For those who are easily stressed out by what the world throws at them, perhaps teaching isn't a good career choice, said Douglas Schreiber, a biology teacher at Glen Burnie High School.

"Personality is going to play a big part in your decision on whether you really want to do this or not," he said. "I've really only had one or two bad days in my life."

That doesn't mean every day is an easy one, he said. "Not everyone wants to learn biology.

"You can be the most fun and exciting guy in the world. [Some students still] don't want anything to do with the Kreb's Cycle," Schreiber said.

"There are days when I feel like going home and pulling out my hair," said Maisha Strong, a math teacher at Bates Middle School in Annapolis. "But there's always a reward at the end. Your good days will always outweigh your bad days."

Superintendent Carol S. Parham helped launch career day by introducing the video the school district uses in recruiting teachers all over the country. In the video, she spoke of the qualities she looks for in new employees.

"I would expect them to exhibit courage every day," she said. "It does take courage to do anything in this life. ...

"I heard a fifth-grader describe education as the big chance. Education is the big chance, and the children of this country and this county are depending on you for the big chance."

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