Retired teachers return to classroom

March 28, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

SMITHSBURG - Retirement hasn't kept a pair of Washington County teachers from the classroom.

cont. from front page

Barbara and Myrdon "Don" Neumann, of Smithsburg, have tag-teamed as volunteers in county schools since retiring from the Washington County Board of Education in the early 1980s.

"We're enjoying our retirement so much. Working as a team is so much fun," said Barbara Neumann, 76, who taught first and second grade at Cascade Elementary School for 19 years.

Her husband, 77, spent 12 years teaching electronics and drafting at Northern Middle School in Hagerstown after retiring from a 23-year career as a U.S. Air Force officer.


They've found their niche in the computer lab at Smithsburg Elementary.

"Aaaww," groans Dustin Davis as his computer screen goes blank. The first-grader in Cindy Kauffman's class puts a red plastic cup atop his monitor.

That's the signal for help.

Moving quickly to Dustin's side, Don Neumann taps a key and revives the screen.

"At least it didn't blow up on you," he whispers with a smile.

Another red cup.

First-grader David Cook struggles to squeeze a trapezoidal-shaped piece into his math program's geometrical quilt.

"It's not working," he tells Barbara Neumann.

"Will a smaller piece fit in there?" she asks gently.

David tries her suggestion. It works.

"Ah. Look what you've got," she says.

The Neumanns have found great satisfaction in giving four extra hands to busy teachers, and in helping children learn skills that will be critical to their futures, they said.

"You can see one teacher with 25 kids on 25 computers would be just about impossible," Don Neumann said. "Basically, we try to stay out of the kids' hair unless they need help."

The extra assistance that he and his wife give in setting up the classroom and cleaning up after class frees time for teacher Cindy Kauffman to help her students one-on-one, she said.

And the kids "love 'em," Kauffman added.

Barbara Neumann began volunteering in Cascade's school library soon after she retired. Her husband caught the computer bug while taking a Board of Education in-service seminar at Eastern Elementary.

When he realized that one of the school's teachers had her hands full trying to teach computer lab skills to a large class, Don Neumann offered to help, his wife said.

"He caught on very well," she said.

The Neumanns bought a Macintosh Apple computer for their home, learned the operating system and various programs, and began offering their services to Cascade and Paramount elementary schools, they said.

The Neumanns took another in-service at Smithsburg Elementary, where in 1998 they started devoting 10 hours a week to helping kindergartners, first- and third-graders in the new computer lab - which featured IBM-compatible PCs.

Forget apples for these former teachers. The Neumanns bought a PC.

"When we went PC, they went PC," said Smithsburg Elementary Principal Charles W. Fager, who was principal at Cascade during four years of Barbara Neumann's tenure there.

The Neumanns have "contributed a lot of time and a lot of knowledge here," Fager said.

A small plaque at the back of the classroom states that it's never to late to learn new things.

Don Neumann said he relished the challenge of learning to use a PC.

"I thought, 'What a good chance to get an education,'" he said, pulling a new creative writing software program from a filing cabinet.

"I'm telling you, this is too much. Even for us, it's fun."

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