Schools signing older teachers

Fewer newcomers than veterans hired this year

`Had to look other places'

Demographic trend found throughout Maryland

Carroll County

August 18, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

School officials have always called them "kids" - the new teachers who move into classrooms in August to prepare for the school year.

The nickname seems apt, considering that many of them don't look much older than their students.

But this year, for the first time, the Carroll school district has hired more experienced teachers than first-year educators. Of the 226 teachers hired for this school year, 95 are rookies.

In short, the veterans outnumber the kids.

"We noticed the trend starting to move this way a couple years ago," said Stephen Guthrie, the school district's assistant superintendent of administration, noting that this is also the largest number of new hires the district has signed in a single year.

"As the pool of new teachers shrinks and signing graduates of teaching colleges and universities becomes more competitive, we've had to look other places to fill our teaching vacancies."

A state education official said that Carroll was likely one of the last of Maryland's 24 school systems to be able to depend more heavily on first-year teachers than returning educators to fill vacancies.

"If Carroll County has always hired more recent grads, they have been unusual for our state," said Bill Reinhard, a spokesman with the Maryland State Department of Education.

"The fact is that Maryland's colleges and universities only graduate about 2,200 students a year and Maryland [public] schools need about 8,000 teachers every year," he said.

"So there's a gap of almost 6,000 teachers that have to come from somewhere, whether it's other school systems, other states or retired teachers who are rehired."

As recently as five years ago, about 70 percent of Carroll County's new teachers were recent college graduates. The mix slowly shifted to a 50-50 split between new and returning teachers. This year, almost 60 percent of new hires came from other school systems.

The second time around

Sandie Borzymowski, who has teaching experience, said she thought it gave her a "little edge" over novice teachers. "The older you get, the better you get," said Borzymowski, who describes her age as "40-plus" and will teach third grade at Robert Moton Elementary. She spent five years in the 1980s teaching third grade in Baltimore schools before she took a job as the human resources manager of a plastics manufacturing company.

Her decision to leave teaching had nothing to do with education. "It was the inner city and I had a bad experience outside the school," Borzymowski said, declining to give details of what happened.

"My husband said, `You're not going back,' and I could kick myself now. I wish I had stayed in, but now I can actually look forward to teaching. I guess you have to leave it to find out how much you missed it."

Borzymowski and several friends chuckled as they looked around the cafeteria at North Carroll High School on Monday, where 190 of the county's new teachers were having lunch on the first day of orientation.

`Look like children'

"We were joking that some of these people look like children," said Cathy DeStefano, 36, who ended her stint as a stay-at-home mom last week, when the school year began for her.

She will be teaching fifth grade at Manchester Elementary when pupils report for class Aug. 26.

DeStefano always wanted to be a teacher. But when she graduated from North Carroll High, her school advisers told her, "There are no jobs for teachers. Go into computers."

She did, and she didn't like it.

Going back to school

So DeStefano went back to college in 1994 to receive teacher training.

"I don't think you can tell someone who really wants to teach to go into computers," she said. "It just doesn't match up."

So now, with daughters in fourth and 10th grade and a son in seventh grade, DeStefano is going back to elementary school.

"At my age, I feel like I have an advantage over some of these younger teachers," she said. "I have children. I've been through this with my own children. So I do think I have an advantage and a better idea of what's going on with them."

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