Teacher focuses on the larger lessons

She aims to give her pupils confidence to try new things

April 23, 2006|By KATIE MARTIN | KATIE MARTIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

After teaching young children for the past 27 years, Dolly Mersinger said she has found that the best way to ensure her students' success is by helping them build confidence.

So the Manchester Elementary School teacher encourages her fourth-graders to try new things and reach for goals.

"Giving students the opportunity to accomplish tasks that they can do helps them build confidence," Mersinger said. "What I'm really after is students stretching themselves."

Mersinger, 56, of Hampstead, was recently recognized for her accomplishments in her classroom when the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce selected her as an outstanding teacher. She was one of eight educators to receive the award this year.

The four high school, two middle school and two elementary school teachers were chosen from among nearly 200 student-nominated teachers countywide. One will be named Teacher of the Year next month.

Bob Mitchell, Manchester's principal, said Mersinger is an excellent teacher who is very creative in the classroom.

"She cares so passionately for her children's success, and she works so hard to make sure that every child does well," Mitchell said. "She is a teacher who holds children to very high standards, but she helps them to meet those standards."

Mersinger said she helps her students build confidence through a public speaking unit that gives everyone a chance to stand up and speak to their peers.

This year, one class prepared infomercials with organizational tips that were filmed and broadcast over the school's television news channel.

Another class made posters and gave speeches to second-grade health classes about the food guide pyramid.

"When children feel confident, they are willing to try more things, like giving an answer or getting into an area that is unknown to them," Mersinger said.

The students also become experts at classroom jobs that they vie for at the beginning of the year, such as collecting work for absent students or handing out fluoride, she said.

All of Mersinger's lessons, discussions and projects are thoughtfully designed to teach the children the skills that they need, Mitchell said.

Outside of the classroom, Mersinger said, she has been a part of Carroll County's 4-H program since getting involved about 13 years ago with her daughter, who is now a senior at American University.

She said the program develops youth leadership and other skills, much like the ones she teaches in her classroom.

4-H is unlike most youth activities in which children are grouped by age and sex. In 4-H, the children work together and learn from each other, which is an important real-world simulation, Mersinger said.

A graduate of former Mount St. Agnes College in Baltimore, Mersinger taught in Baltimore for 13 years before joining Manchester's staff in 1992.

Mersinger said her advice to new teachers is to remember that their attitude about the children and about learning is the most powerful force at work in the classroom.

She said the pleasure in teaching is being responsible for initiating a spark in students to learn a new skill or acquire knowledge.

"I really enjoy the laughs that the children give us," Mersinger said. "One thing I would never say is that I spent a boring day in teaching. Even my hardest days were not boring."

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