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Future of education discussed at HCC conference

August 25, 1999

Donald LangenbergBy BRENDAN KIRBY / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




About 1,100 Washington County educators met at Hagerstown Community College Wednesday in what organizers hope is the first step in creating a "K-16" mindset.

A year in the planning, the "Creating a Learning Community" conference attempted to foster communication among teachers at all levels of the education system.

"I can think of no better way to make connections than having teachers talk to teachers," said Norman P. Shea, Hagerstown Community College's president.

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Teachers were divided into groups based on their subject areas and spent the day in workshops.

Marj Cober, a science teacher at Northern Middle School, said at the end of the day that the sessions were worthwhile.

Teachers shared lesson plans, which Cober said she hopes will help students understand opportunities that will come later.

"It's an awareness thing," she said.

"It helps to form the big picture," agreed Dennis Laub, a Spanish teacher at North Hagerstown High School. "You can compare notes and coordinate philosophies and techniques and strategies and all get on the same page."

Laub said teachers routinely hear from other educators during staff development programs. But he said they usually come from the outside.

"I think today was the first time I recall doing anything like this," he said.

Donald N. Langenberg, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, stressed the importance of post-secondary education.

He cited statistics showing that the portion of jobs for unskilled labor has declined from 60 percent to 10 percent in the last 50 years. That requires students - and their teachers - to view education as a K-16 model rather than K-12, he said.

Counting the growing trend toward adults returning to school to take classes, Langenberg said the scope is even broader.

"Every single man, woman and child in Washington County is a student, or a potential student," he said.

Vaughn Crowl, an HCC psychology professor, said teachers face a diverse student body that requires different techniques and approaches.

He said he hoped Wednesday's meetings would allow teachers to share some of the successful approaches.

"School teaching today is a lot like missionary work," he said.

Crowl said he also hopes the conference will help to change the culture of education in Washington County, where the percentage of students who go on to higher education is below the state average.

Crowl predicted several ideas would spring from the sessions. For instance, the college might decide to offer the top psychology students in each high school the opportunity to sit in on college classes.

"If they can see it, they believe it," he said. "Sometimes, college seems so far away."

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