Anne Arundel program prepares new teachers

Right Start gives support to beginning educators

August 14, 2010|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

With the new school year in Anne Arundel County about a week away, the county's new teachers are receiving instruction on how to best approach the challenges ahead — including managing a classroom, decorating a bulletin board and handling parent phone calls.

The county will begin the school year with more than 300 new teachers and are preparing them with its Right Start Teacher Support Program, which included a recent three-day event at Old Mill High School in Millersville. The event was designed to familiarize teachers with school procedures, protocol, content and program areas.

Twenty-six advisers are among those administering the Right Start program, which serves first- and second-year teachers and allows third-year teachers to take part. Advisers provide counsel and support throughout the year, and new teachers take part in monthly seminars that offer instruction on teaching strategies, communicating with parents and lesson planning.

New Teacher Support manager Andrea Mucci said the program helps build teachers' confidence by making them feel comfortable to ask even the most trivial of questions.

"Advisers answer anything about classroom instruction and classroom management," Mucci said. "They model lessons. They take teachers out to observe. What it does is provide teachers with a huge network of colleagues."

Karlin Hirschfeld of Odenton is already asking questions as he begins his first year of full-time teaching. He is combining his interest in sports and his passion for working with young people to be a physical-education teacher at Van Bokkelen Elementary School in Severn.

"I've asked about where to find a particular curriculum and how to incorporate different units into the criteria of physical ed, things that were important to me to be successful," Hirschfeld said. "I'm ready to have my own class and be able to develop my own curriculum and lessons and see how it goes."

Amy Fee, a Right Start adviser who taught for six years at Marley Elementary School in Glen Burnie, took part in the program after her first year of teaching.

"My first year was difficult," she said. "I felt like I was just keeping my head above water."

She said her Right Start adviser "worked with us on getting paperwork done, report cards, interims and those types of things that can be overwhelming for a new teacher."

Anne Arundel County teacher of the year Erin Sullivan says she still turns to her Right Start adviser for counsel and support after six years of teaching at Glen Burnie High School.

"In your graduate or undergraduate program, you don't really learn a lot about classroom management," she said. "That is an area that the Right Start advisers are really helpful in."

Right Start adviser Ginger Robertson said that among the questions new teachers have asked her are where and what to place on bulletin boards, how to arrange desks and how to manage children's behavior.

"For bulletin boards, we might look at other teachers' classrooms. How do they have their bulletin boards set up?" Robertson said. "And then we'll look at, what does the administrator expect on the walls? And we look at the content of the curriculum. They might put up a welcoming bulletin board at the beginning of the year about themselves so the students can get to know them."

Andrea Zamora, director of professional growth and development for Anne Arundel schools, said new-teacher support programs have been in existence in the county for 30 years.

In 2000, the district participated in a Beginning Teacher Educator Support grant offered through the Maryland State Department of Education to increase teacher retention rates. The Right Start program evolved from the grant program in 2004.

"The teachers who participate, we find that two to five years from being hired, our retention rate average is 94 percent. We're above the national average," Zamora said.

"The teachers feel supported, and they feel that somebody really cares about their success."

joseph.burris@baltsun.com

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