Helping shape students' futures

Teacher and class adviser relishes getting to know her teenagers outside the classroom

May 21, 2006|By KATIE MARTIN | KATIE MARTIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Jennifer Cole said she recalls being asked in sixth grade what she wanted to do when she grew up.

She knew she wanted to teach.

"There's no other job where you get to work with so many different people every day," Cole said. "It's a job that definitely has an impact on the future."

Cole helps shape the lives of students at Francis Scott Key High School, both as an English teacher and as a class adviser. She has been teaching in Carroll County for 10 years.

Cole, 33, of Frederick, was recently recognized for her accomplishments when she was named an outstanding teacher.

She was one of eight educators selected by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce to receive this year's award.

The four high school, two middle school and two elementary school teachers were chosen from among nearly 200 student-nominated teachers countywide.

Whether Cole is teaching students how to write resumes, prepare for a job interview or fill out college applications, she relishes the opportunity to help them shape their futures.

Cole taught for a year at Mount Airy Middle School before joining the faculty at Francis Scott Key High School in Union Bridge.

She teaches British literature to 11th-graders and also teaches a basic English class to ninth-graders and remedial students.

Cole said that her students read short stories, novels, poetry and nonfiction.

"For them to be successful, they need to be good readers," Cole said.

She said she tries to show them strategies before they read, while they read and after they finish so they can comprehend the material.

"I always give them clear objectives and goals," Cole said. "I also try very hard to show them that it's important to know where you want to go ... so you can plan how to get there."

Randy Clark, the school's principal, described Cole as being meticulous and having an outstanding rapport with students.

"She's able to reach every ability level of student," Clark said. "She's very dedicated in everything she does. You couldn't ask for a better staff member."

In Clark's role as class adviser, she assisted the Class of 2002 and now advises the Class of 2007.

She said that she enjoys getting to know the kids and finding out what's going on in their lives.

"Being class adviser for the Class of 2007 allows me to get to know the kids outside of the classroom," she said. "That's where they let you into their lives, and it's probably when I am able to have the most impact on students."

As adviser, Cole helps the students plan class events, such as prom and graduation.

She also is a mentor for student teachers through a partnership that the high school has with McDaniel College. She has had student teachers in her classroom for the past five years.

As the college students watch Cole in the classroom, she hopes they see that teaching is a balance between the passion a teacher has and the skills necessary to educate the students.

"You have to have fun with it," Cole said. "If you take it too seriously, you burn out."

She said she tries to add new twists to her lessons from ideas she gets from reading over the summer. She also attends professional development seminars, observes other teachers in their classrooms and serves on the school system's grammar instruction committee.

She earned a bachelor's degree from St. Mary's College and has a master's in education from McDaniel College.

Outside of the classroom, Cole stays busy with her family. She has two kids, ages 2 and 4. She likes to read, plays volleyball and basketball, and is involved with her church.

Cole said the thing she enjoys most about teaching is that every day is an adventure.

"I never know exactly how the day is going to go and as much as you plan, something always throws you off," Cole said. "It keeps me on my toes."

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