Old friends, new school

Beginnings: Howard's newest high school has only two first-year teachers, but they've known each other for years.

September 11, 2002|By Laura Shovan | Laura Shovan,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Kristin Friedman and Kristine Dooley are the only first-year teachers on staff at Howard County's newest high school, Reservoir in Fulton.

"We had over 200 applications for voluntary transfer" from teachers already working in Howard County, Principal Adrianne Kaufman said.

Educators with a variety of experience, including veterans who have been teaching more than 25 years, filled the 53 teaching positions.

"When you put that mix together, you get the best of both worlds," Kaufman said.

Currently, only ninth- and 10th-graders attend the school. By 2005, when the first senior class graduates, Kaufman expects to have about 100 teachers on staff.

She said one of the benefits of opening a school is "the principal's ability to choose the staff. You're not walking into a building where the school's culture is already established.

"There's a certain excitement about the staff and the students and the community being able to establish that culture."

Because everyone - custodians, cafeteria workers, teachers and administrators - is new, "among the staff, the sense of unity is unbelievable," Kaufman said.

"There is such incredible enthusiasm and energy ... because everybody's new and everything is new."

Friedman and Dooley met four years ago in a teaching program at University of Maryland, College Park. It was 1998, when both would-be special-education teachers began a five-year program at the school.

They knew they would complete the program as certified teachers with master's degrees. What these classmates didn't expect is that they would also begin their first teaching jobs together.

Both first-year teachers said that experienced instructors have helped them with lesson plans, and shared materials and resources.

Friedman said that "a fresh start is great. They've never seen me before. Often ... [students'] history follows them and here it's almost like they get to start a new history." She said the school offers a "brand-new start" for youths who might have had trouble in school.

A specialist in behavior disorders, Friedman found out about Reservoir High when she attended a Howard County job fair. She met Kaufman at a mass interview and was offered a job on the spot.

"I was totally psyched. It's every new teacher's dream to be at a brand-new school," she said. "Everybody's new."

When Kaufman asked whether Friedman knew of any other special-education teachers who were looking for jobs, she recommended Dooley.

"It was nice that when I came to work here, I knew someone," Friedman said.

Although the two don't work with the same group of students, "whenever we see each other, we bring each other up to date on what's going on," Friedman said.

Teaching is Dooley's second career. After 14 years working in accounting, she decided to go back to school. A "Life Skills" teacher, Dooley works with special-needs students who require extra assistance with job skills and socialization.

As she plans the curriculum for her program, Dooley is full of ideas. She wants to take her three ninth-graders on field trips for "community-based training" such as opening a bank account and going grocery shopping.

Her classroom is bare now, but Dooley hopes to have it set up like an apartment in which her pupils can practice cooking and socializing - maybe even throw a party for their friends.

Dooley said she likes being in the new school because "I get to start my own program. [There is] all this high-tech stuff and I really do have a lot of ... freedom with what I do."

The first couple weeks have been busy for the new teachers. Friedman, who also sponsors Reservoir's drill team, often remains at work until 6:30 p.m.

"But it's a good busy. ... I'm excited that I get to go another day," she said.

"It's very overwhelming," said Dooley. "But it's a good stress. Now I'm finally in a job where I like it, and that's a really good feeling."

Her fellow teachers share that feeling, she added.

"No one has a negative attitude at all. They're here because they want to be here."

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