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Teacher puts stress on computer education

December 05, 1999

Editor's Note: The Herald-Mail is featuring one high school teacher each month through May. The eight-part series highlights excellent educators on the first Monday of each month. Coming in January: Hancock Middle/Senior High School.




Norman McGaugheyBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




Norman McGaughey is a high-tech teacher.

In his advanced computer applications class, Washington County Technical High School students learn how to network in a new way. They graduate knowing how to connect computers, set up servers and analyze operating systems.

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"What I try to do is give them an overview of the computer arena," McGaughey said. He also prepares them for the job market by discussing interview techniques, workplace behavior and expectations.

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Many of his students take internships working outside the school as technicians. "We try to get them involved as much as possible so they have real-life experience," he said. "I think that's the best thing."

The 36-year-old Homer City, Pa., native worked in banks for most of his professional life, earning a wealth of knowledge about computers. After managing five different bank branches, he had also learned to teach.

"That's what I did better than anything else," he said. McGaughey enjoyed training employees to use new hardware or software. In the fast-moving world of technology, he had to keep pace. "You learn on the go," he said. "It changes so much."

McGaughey got a bachelor's degree in accounting from Pennsylvania State University and a master's degree in financial management from the University of Maryland.

In 12 years with First Investors Corporation, he worked in Pittsburgh, Pa., Kensington, Md., and Columbia, Md. In 1996, he became trust operations manager for Farmers and Mechanics National Bank in Frederick, Md.

He moved to New Market, Md., where his wife teaches middle school. McGaughey was looking for a change of pace. "I was looking to get involved in teaching," he said.

Washington County Technical High School was a good fit. Its in-house child-care program was free for his 4-year-old daughter. It allowed him to help create a curriculum. "The flexibility here is really unique," he said.

McGaughey has only juniors and seniors, group classes that rotate daily. Because they choose to enroll at WCTHS, he knows they are not necessarily like other students. "I assume they are here to learn," he said. "They are dedicated."

On a recent afternoon, ten seniors listened as McGaughey discussed how to map a network drive or "hide" a server.

They talked about file security. The teacher drew a diagram, marking boxes "marketing," "finance," and "human resources." Applying the lesson to business, McGaughey asked which department users should have read-only access to computer files.

During the lesson, he paused several times to ask questions. The students gave their full attention but laughed enough to show they were comfortable. Some were dressed in ties, prepared for work when school ended.

One discussion led to interview techniques. "You'll be the one under the microscope," McGaughey said. He advised them to be pleasant to office assistants. As a boss, he often asked his secretary how applicants behaved while waiting.

"You don't even know you're being watched," he said. From preparing portfolios to learning computer languages, the course is aimed at getting students ready. "My job is to create a product either an employee or a college can accept," he said.

On some days, McGaughey reverses roles to play "teach the teacher." Students try to learn a computer skill or trick he doesn't know. "Then I learn," he said. "I have a family. I can't play on the computer eight hours."

McGaughey's classroom is the most up-to-date computer lab in the school system, he says. His students share what they learn, training other teachers to use some software. They trained Washington County Free Library staff on the Microsoft programs Excel and Word.

The students set up computer laboratories at South Hagerstown High School this year and three other labs last year. Three of them work as computer technicians for the Washington County Board of Education. One senior, Larry Atherton, works daily from 4 p.m. to midnight at First Data Corp., he said.

The class also handles work orders from the School Board. When it comes to using what they learn, McGaughey's students seem to have no shortage of outlets.

"We do real-world, real-life stuff," he said.

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