New teachers get prepped for school

Orientation: Rookies learn the rules of survival for the coming school year.

August 15, 2004|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

The halls buzzed with the chatter that marks the first day at school. As the new arrivals lined the hallways to get to their classes -- always keeping to their right and walking in single-file along the wall, seemingly without realizing it -- there was an air of excitement and a bit of anxiety.

Carroll County's newest crop of educators had reported for New Teacher Orientation at Winters Mill High School in Westminster.

These educators are among the 163 new teachers who will be in classrooms when school opens to students Aug. 30. More than 2,100 teachers will staff county schools this year.

There were more teacher openings that had to be filled because of increased enrollment countywide and because Winters Mill High will get its first class of seniors this year, according to Jimmie Saylor, human resources director.

But with about 3,000 applicants, county hiring officials had no trouble filling the positions.

"Carroll County is an easy sell" to prospective teachers, said Anna-Maria Halstead, recruitment coordinator. "You can walk into any of our buildings and find parents actively working to help teachers, staff and students. ... [Applicants] see that it's a whole community."

Halstead estimated county officials attended about 50 job fairs during the past school year, going as far as Montana and Louisiana to find teachers. But most of the new hires are from the area -- 100 are graduates of Maryland colleges, while 18 are from colleges in Pennsylvania.

On Friday, the new teachers sat through several sessions on topics ranging from setting up direct deposits for their paychecks to reporting child abuse. Other topics they will explore during the next several days include classroom management and teaching methods.

In exchange for attending the six-day orientation, each teacher receives a $1,100 bonus and what feels like an endless stream of information.

"It's nice to get everything explained in laymen's terms. ... This helped fill in more of the details," said Natalie Herrick, 23, who will teach first grade at Mount Airy Elementary.

"This has been helpful, especially when you're a new teacher," she said.

Herrick, who pored over information mailed to her during the summer and spent some of her break reading books about teaching, said she is eager to get started.

"I'm excited and nervous. I'm excited to meet the kids," said Herrick, who grew up in Westminster and graduated from Towson University in May. "I'll probably learn as much this year as any of my students."

A new program -- the resident teacher certificate -- is being launched this year with nine teachers.

The program, a joint effort of the county school system and Carroll County Community College, enables those with degrees in non-teaching fields to become teachers in hard-to-fill areas such as science, math and foreign languages.

Participants had to have at least a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 grade point average in their field. They attended summer classes to learn teaching methods.

"I think it's a win-win situation -- teachers win, schools win, the students win -- because it allows those with a lot of experience but no teacher certification to teach and get certified. And, it gets highly qualified people teaching in the classrooms," said Matthew Lustig, 27, who lives in Adams County, Pa.

Lustig, who most recently worked as a naturalist for Bear Branch Nature Center, will teach sixth-grade science at Carroll County Outdoor School in Westminster.

"They did a great job of teaching us how to teach over the summer," Lustig said.

After school begins, participants will continue their teacher training as they work toward state certification.

Their first semester will qualify as their student teaching requirement. They also will be mentored and monitored through classroom visits by county school system staff and the community college.

In the meantime, school officials offered encouragement to the rookie teachers as they prepare for their classroom assignments.

"In our school system, we work to hire the best. You are the best. ... Don't underestimate the influence you're going to have on the student," Steve Johnson, director of curriculum and instruction, told the new teachers.

"You are the most important person that is going to affect student achievement," he said.

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