When the instructor is learning the ropes

Teaching: Mike Schemmel left a career in management information systems to go into education.

Education

March 17, 2004|By Tawanda W. Johnson | Tawanda W. Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Mike Schemmel knows how to make math fun.

With 25 pupils divided into four teams, the student teacher at Bollman Bridge Elementary School in Jessup transforms the classroom into something like the set of Jeopardy.

"You bought a shirt for $9.88; sunglasses for $3.25; and a pack of gum for 52 cents," he begins, then asks for the total.

A few minutes pass, and Schemmel, 34, says, "Boards up," which means the fourth-graders have to show their answers.

"Thirteen dollars and 65 cents is correct. Teams two and four," you get 400 points.

Schemmel is among roughly 200 student teachers working in Howard County schools. These teachers-in-training generally observe how a classroom operates in the fall and participate in a "field experience" -- teaching classes -- in the spring.

During the 2002-2003 school year, 22 colleges and universities sent students to teach in the schools. Those institutions also provided on-site training for teachers and research for the school system.

"The training for our teachers is a big plus," said Cheri Jefferson, facilitator of the school system's Professional Development School Program.

"The interns and the faculty bring the latest information and research in teaching to our classrooms."

The universities, she added, also invest grant money in the classrooms. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County recently used a grant to purchase a scanner, digital camera and projector.

The program enables student teachers seeking employment to skip the first part of a three-tier interview process because the school system is familiar with their background, Jefferson said.

Of student teachers in the schools last year, 75 were hired, five declined employment and 149 did not apply.

According to the teachers' contract, the starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor's degree was $33,160 for the 2002-2003 school year.

Schemmel, who left a career in management information systems to become a teacher, said he would love to come back to Bollman Bridge full time after his field experience.

"I really enjoy this, and it's the perfect fit for me," he said, adding that his father was a teacher and inspired him to join the profession.

In May, Schemmel will graduate with a master's degree from the University of Maryland. He had worked for DavCo Restaurants Inc., which operates Wendy's, the fast-food chain.

Schemmel began at Bollman Bridge in the fall with observation sessions and now teaches seven classes a day, including math, language arts, reading, science and social studies.

"It was a good point in my life to make a change. My daughter is young, and my wife is very supportive," he said about switching careers.

Ashley Davis, his mentor teacher at Bollman Bridge, has also helped, Schemmel said.

"She has been a great mentor for me. She's very patient, and she's always positive and supportive," he said.

Davis said Schemmel has done a "tremendous job" teaching.

"He has his own rapport with the students, and he sets his expectations high," she said.

In April, Schemmel will start teaching fewer classes as his field experience comes to an end. For now, he is enjoying doing what he has always wanted to do.

"I enjoy working with the children," he said.

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