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Student adviser earns recognition

March 30, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

North Hagerstown High School teacher Kim O'Kane appreciates all the nice notes people sent to congratulate her for being chosen Washington County Student Government Adviser of the Year.

One problem: There is no such award.

Actually, the 30-year-old was nominated for, but didn't win, a statewide adviser's award.

That's where the confusion came from. Elsewhere in Maryland, the teacher who wins the county adviser's award then competes for the state honor, she said.

The nomination was nice, said O'Kane, who is in her third year of teaching math at the school.

She took on the Student Government Association adviser's job last year, after filling in for the previous adviser at the state convention in Ocean City.

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"I just got hooked," said O'Kane, who finished the year in the role.

O'Kane approached her new job with gusto, said SGA President Pepper Ballard, who decided to nominate her for the state award last fall after hearing about it at a Washington County Association of Student Councils meeting.

Ballard, 17, a senior, said she thought O'Kane was a shoo-in for the award. She was both surprised and disappointed when she learned someone else had won.

"I really didn't think there could be anybody more enthusiastic," she said. "I just can't imagine anyone as hyper as Miss O'Kane or anybody as willing to do as much for the school."

O'Kane works well with her students, said Ballard, who had been active in student government since her freshman year. And her input is very helpful.

O'Kane was active in student government in her own school. She said she truly believes in its potential benefit to students.

"This is a perfect way to teach initiative," she said. "In order to do that, you need to give them a chance to show initiative."

SGA's annual canned food drive is a good example, she said. It requires organization, follow-through, committee management and dealing with local businesses.

As an adviser, O'Kane said a teacher must be careful in how much she allows herself to get involved, know when to step in and when to keep quiet, O'Kane said.

"I've seen SGAs that are run by the adviser,'' said O'Kane, a military brat who spent her last three years of high school in Middletown, Md.

"That takes away the whole thing from the kids. My own personal philosophy is if you want to be a good adviser, you have to let the kids run government."

O'Kane said she believes her students appreciate the freedom she allows them and that she likes to have fun.

"I think my kids are pretty comfortable with me," she said.

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