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Winter Street teacher watches her students come and go

June 03, 2002|by TARA REILLY

Editor's note: This is the last of a nine-part series featuring one elementary school teacher each month since October. The series highlighted excellent educators on the first Monday of every month.

tarar@herald-mail.com

Every year Cathy Thim watches her children come and go.

With a high rate of students who enter and leave the classrooms during the school year, staff members at Winter Street Elementary School are faced with the challenge of making sure new students can make the transition in their new environment.

"They just come with a lot of baggage sometimes," said Thim, a first-grade teacher.

Sometimes the new students have family problems and may be behind academically, the teacher of 21 years said.

"It is a big challenge," she said. "A lot of them really need a lot of extra help, and it is very difficult when you get children who haven't been a part of your program."

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However, Thim said the emotional or academic difficulties don't stop her or her staff from providing all of their students with a solid education.

"You're expected to be able to teach any child that you get ... and do the best job that you can," she said.

She said the school offers a variety of extra help, including reading intervention programs, after-school programs, summer school and tutoring.

Thim, 55, has also tried to increase parental involvement with the school and has been a part of efforts that teach parents techniques on how to read to their children.

"Reading is really a basis for everything," Thim said. "You need to be able to read in math, you need to be able to read in science ... I really try to make my parents feel at ease."

She said she feels rewarded when students advance enough that they're able to read books on their own.

Thim, a native of Washington County, said she's wanted to be an elementary school teacher since she was in the primary grades herself.

"I've always loved children," she said. "I've always wanted to teach small children."

After graduating from South Hagerstown High School, Thim went to Towson State College, then received her master's degree from Johns Hopkins University. She has also completed some post-graduate work at Loyola University.

She taught seven years at Timonium Elementary School in Baltimore County, followed by two years in the Southeastern School District in Pennsylvania.

She then moved to Williamsport after her husband, Anthony, retired as an officer with the Baltimore County Police Department.

She has two children, Amy, 24, and Matthew, 26, and two stepchildren, Laura, 33, and Lisa, 30.

She's worked as a first-grade teacher at Winter Street for the last 12 years.

"I just like being part of the beginning of a child's learning process," Thim said. "A child's first few teachers really lay the groundwork ... and then the rest continue to build upon that.

"You are really molding their lives a little bit."

With the role of a teacher becoming more challenging, Thim said she'd like to stay in the field for at least another four years, when she'll reach 25 years on the job.

"I think a teacher's job is getting harder," she said. "It's becoming difficult to keep a child's motivation. The older I get, sometimes it's just getting a bit tougher to do that."

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