Teacher coaches students through math

February 03, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a monthly series highlighting excellent educators in Washington County high schools. Next month: Smithsburg High School.

It was the perfect pitch for Dave Warrenfeltz: Coach baseball and teach math.

But fate threw him a curve when he found the classroom more rewarding than the ball field.

As a teenager, all he could think about was coaching, the North Hagerstown High School teacher said.

A few Smithsburg High School teachers made math his favorite subject and gave him enough confidence to major in the subject at Washington and Lee University, where he got his degree.

Now, with 19 years of teaching math, 12 years of coaching baseball and eight years of coaching football behind him, Warrenfeltz has found solving his career equation is pretty simple.


"I found the more I taught, the more I liked teaching," he said.

Warrenfeltz stopped coaching high school baseball in 1996 after deciding to spend more time coaching his son away from the North High diamond.

He said being a coach is not much different than being a teacher because in both roles he is trying to get his students to reach their potential.

"The playing field was an extension of the classroom," he said. "I think coaching helped me teach."

Warrenfeltz resigned from his position as math department chairman to focus on teaching calculus.

He said that when the high school changed its semester schedule from seven short periods to four long ones, more students were advancing to higher-level courses. The school soon had more students signing up for Calculus II.

Warrenfeltz also teaches Algebra II and Foundations of Math.

He said students' lack of desire is the biggest obstacle that keeps them from conquering the subjects he teaches.

"If they're willing to work, we can teach them math," he said.

Warrenfeltz said he tries to impress on his students that math is important and necessary in life.

It might not be enough that students use graphic calculators and current technology daily to solve problems they encounter in their class work, he said.

"The big thing I think we can do is teach kids how to solve problems," Warrenfeltz said. "Hopefully, we can get them from point A to point B."

To him, watching his students get accepted into colleges after working hard all through school is just as important as teaching them his favorite subject.

"I always tell the kids it's the hardest they'll ever work in a math class, but it's the most fun they'll ever have," he said.

Warrenfeltz said he enjoys teaching math and hopes that enthusiasm is echoed within his students.

"You don't teach math, you teach kids," he said.

It wasn't until he attended a memorial service for a colleague that Warrenfeltz realized the importance of the spark between a student and a teacher.

"The grief was phenomenal," he said, recalling the death of his biggest role model, Chuck Zonis, a North High social studies teacher and baseball coach who died from cancer in 1992.

Warrenfeltz, whose classroom was next to Zonis', said the two talked between every class period. Zonis taught him through his health struggles to be courageous and to handle himself with dignity. He taught Warrenfeltz through the students who mourned him how important and influential teachers are in the lives of their students.

Zonis' last six baseball seasons were spent with Warrenfeltz as his assistant coach.

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