It's back to school for new teachers in the county as orientation begins

800 attend workshops at Randallstown High

August 18, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

State schools chief Nancy S. Grasmick called them "creative artists in human lives." To Baltimore County school board President James R. Sasiadek, they are "ambassadors for achievement." County Executive James T. Smith Jr. described them as "magnificent."

With that, Baltimore County's 800 new teachers dispersed from the Randallstown High School auditorium and got down to the business of how to educate children. On the first of three orientation days yesterday, they were outfitted with royal blue "Baltimore County Public Schools" tote bags crammed with binders and pamphlets and sent on their way to workshops throughout the building.

Elementary school teachers stayed together to talk reading, writing and arithmetic, while middle and high school teachers divided according to their subject areas. High school English teachers filled the cafeteria.

In a second-floor classroom, Laura Ward worked with 11 sixth-grade reading teachers. All are new Baltimore County teachers, but not all are new to teaching - or to the school system. Bridget Naylor transferred from Lombard Middle School in Baltimore City, while Consuella Craig got a teaching degree after spending 10 years as a secretary in Baltimore County schools.

Ward, a reading resource teacher, had a wealth of tips for her all-female class. She urged them to let children read a passage to themselves before asking them to read it aloud, and to point out strategies of successful readers. ("Listen to how I pay attention to punctuation.")

She taught them the "five-finger" rule: Children should hold up a finger for every word they don't know. Five fingers or more on a page means the book is too hard.

Topics ranged from scheduling independent reading time to asking the PTA for money to bolster classroom libraries.

Kendall Ann Combs, 23, appreciated the advice. She said she is "excited, but a little anxious" about her new job at Dumbarton Middle School, where she was a pupil a decade ago and where she will teach alongside her mother.

"When you see how many other new teachers there are, it makes you feel better," she said. "There are 799 other people if you feel overwhelmed or lost."

Sitting across the room from Combs was Marcia Marino, who got over such anxiety long ago. She has 37 years of experience teaching in Prince George's County schools, and came to Baltimore County because a law that allowed her to teach in Prince George's schools while collecting a pension expired.

"I just think it's hysterical to be referred to as a new teacher," said Marino, 58, who is headed to Deep Creek Middle School in Essex. "I love it."

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