Award sums up new teacher's skills

Honor: First-year math instructor at North Harford High has become one of only three educators in the county to earn a regional designation.

Education Beat

News For Harford County Schools And Colleges

April 03, 2005|By Andrew G. Sherwood | Andrew G. Sherwood,SUN STAFF

First-year North Harford High School teacher Sarah Voskuhl met Monday at 7:55 a.m. with her 9th- and 10th-grade algebra B class to go over multiplication of binomials and polynomials.

Voskuhl's classroom, filled with 30 desks, 18 students and one teacher, is plastered with math posters, and cabinets up against one wall are stacked with algebra books and graphing calculators.

As construction goes on just outside the windows, students are attentive to Voskuhl when she asks them to take out their homework for the day.

"Who wants to give us their answer for number one?" Voskuhl asks, as several eager students wave their hands in the air and others try to avoid eye contact with the teacher.

Voskuhl is one of 192 first-year teachers in the Mid-Atlantic region, including three teaching in Harford County public schools, designated as Meritorious New Teacher Candidates by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Teachers Project.

Because of the designation, Voskuhl can teach in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia without applying for a license in each one. Reciprocity deals are being formed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

"The states came together because they wanted to see if there were some regional approaches that would solve the teacher quality and the teacher supply-and-demand issues in the region," said Diana Rigden, director of the project.

Voskuhl's students seem oblivious to her award, and care more that next week they have their first chapter test and that their teacher is also the varsity softball coach.

Candidates for the designation must complete a state-approved teacher preparation program that includes at least 400 hours of supervised clinical experience, score in the upper quartile of students nationally on the Praxis II (a test teachers take to be eligible for state certification), and must have earned a minimum grade-point average of 3.5.

Middle and high school teachers must have academic majors in the subjects they will teach with a minimum GPA of 3.5 in their majors. Candidates must also score in the upper quartile of students nationally on the verbal portion of the SAT, GRE or ACT.

Voskuhl, who attended what is now McDaniel College in Westminster, graduated summa cum laude in 2004 with a 3.8 GPA.

Teaching might be in Voskuhl's genes.

Her father, Joe Voskuhl, now the principal of Bel Air High School, was a social studies teacher in Baltimore County and football coach at Bel Air High School when his daughter was younger.

"Dad's job seemed great," she said. "And anytime he would let me help, like with attendance sheets or letting me come to football games with the team, it made me want to teach."

While students learn a new method for multiplying polynomials, Voskuhl reminds them next week's test combined with their quiz grades will count for 65 percent of their grade.

"So, is this test important?" Voskuhl says, as the class answers in unison, "Yes."

In college, Voskuhl student-taught in Carroll County, and applied for jobs in Cecil and Baltimore counties.

"But when I heard about the job in Harford County," she said, "that's where I knew I wanted to be."

The award is intended to give young teachers more ability to move around, and they can teach in any of the designated states.

"It's nice to have that ability," said Voskuhl, who is getting married in September, "but I can't see myself ever leaving Maryland."

Voskuhl's fiance is in graduate school and will work for the National Security Agency after he graduates in May.

Near the blackboard in her classroom is a poster that may best sum up Voskuhl's theory of learning, and her work ethic. It says, "Just because something is hard, doesn't mean you shouldn't try. It means you should just try harder."

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