Letter by girl, 10, leads to teacher's award

NEIGHBORS

August 06, 2002|By Debra Taylor Young | Debra Taylor Young,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PAM SHERFEY, a fourth-grade teacher at Linton Springs Elementary School, was presented an Environmental Awareness Award on Wednesday by the county's Environmental Affairs Advisory Board and the county commissioners.

Roger Wolfe, chairman of the advisory board, presented the award to Sherfey, and noted that she was chosen because of her "dedication to educating her students about the wetlands and her hands-on method of teaching, involving the students."

Sherfey caught the attention of the board because of a letter from Linton Springs fourth-grader Erin Beane, 10. Erin was not Sherfey's pupil, but had participated in two of the teacher's schoolwide projects.

One involved reconstructing a former wetland area on school grounds, the other creating a winter garden habitat to provide food and shelter for indigenous wildlife near the wetlands.

Erin said she wrote the letter because she felt the teacher deserved the honor.

Sherfey was not aware of the letter from Erin on her behalf until she received a telephone call saying she had been selected for the award.

"Erin has done something that has made a difference," said Sherfey. "Sometimes you don't know how much of a difference you can make. Erin planted a seed."

The award ceremony took place at the Dairy Show Pavilion on the fairgrounds of Carroll County Agricultural Center.

Losing weight

For members of Eldersburg Weight Watchers, nothing could be sweeter than to be called "Big Loser" by leader Virginia Cross.

Joe McMahon and Themis Smyrnioudis of Sykesville earned that title after losing more than 100 pounds each through the program.

Smyrnioudis and McMahon are neighbors.

McMahon joked that their similar weights balanced each end of the street - until one day when he noticed that balance had been disrupted. He saw Smyrnioudis and his wife, Barbara, walking and the couple's weight loss was so evident that McMahon ran outside to find out the cause.

Amazed by Smyrnioudis' appearance, he asked, "What happened to you?"

"He told me he was on Weight Watchers," McMahon said. "And he wanted to lose 100 pounds. I have a certain amount of competitiveness about me. I thought, `I can beat him at his goal.'"

McMahon, his wife, Margaret, and son Joe Jr. began attending the weekly meetings of Eldersburg Weight Watchers in January of last year, three months after his neighbors had joined.

He became devoted to his goal and joined a fitness center where he worked out six days a week. Smyrnioudis and his wife continued their routine of a six-mile walk, four to five times a week.

McMahon lost 119.4 pounds, and his neighbor lost 101.8 pounds. Smyrnioudis achieved a lifetime membership for maintaining his weight loss.

Smyrnioudis recalled the first class he attended. He was inspired by the stories of other members, such as Trisha Phelps, who at that time had lost 80 pounds. She now has lost 93 pounds and continues to inspire Smyrnioudis.

Cross said she believes these success stories inspire new members.

"If they can do it, so can I," she said, describing the confidence people gain from one another's success.

She begins every meeting with the question, "Who do I owe success to today?"

As hands are raised one after the other, members reveal a habit they changed or steps they took to achieve their weight loss for the week.

Not only are the two men proud of their new appearance, but they have shed health problems with excess weight.

Both had a physical examination before entering the program and had high blood pressure. McMahon was classified as a diabetic, and Smyrnioudis was borderline for the condition. New examinations show that they have made significant improvements.

McMahon once again can fit into his "Marine greens" - his military uniform from 1969.

On hearing that, Smyrnioudis said he plans to see if he could fit into his old military uniform.

"I think he walks until he gets to my house," McMahon said, chiding his neighbor. "At that point, he starts running."

"I can showboat a little bit," said Smyrnioudis.

McMahon noted that their street is balanced again.

Debra Taylor Young's neighborhood column appears each Tuesday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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