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Local woman is state's top math teacher

December 29, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Andrea Kerslake had her sights on a medical career until a stint tutoring fellow students in math during her senior year at Heritage Academy.

"I found out I was good at it," Kerslake said. So good at it that the 29-year-old Hagers-town resident recently was named Maryland's math teacher of the year.

The honor came after a lengthy scrutiny by representatives of the Maryland Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

The state's new top math teacher is chairwoman of the math department at Frederick (Md.) High School, where she has taught for eight years.

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A former honor student at Heritage Academy, Kerslake went on to earn her undergraduate degree from Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., and then her master's degree in math and computer sciences from Hood College in Frederick.

"I was working on my master's while I was also teaching here at Frederick High," she said. "It's my third year chairing the department."

As such, Kerslake coordinates the efforts of 14 math teachers.

"I serve as liaison between the teachers and the staff, as well as setting up the schedules of what the teachers will be teaching," she said.

This year, Kerslake is teaching Advanced-Placement calculus and honors algebra.

"At that level, my students are very self-motivated," Kerslake said. "But with others, you have to really work to get that level of interest."

So she tries to make math more useful to them in life situations - by solving problems related to speed and distance while driving a car, for example.

"We stress everyday uses of math," Kerslake said.

In addition to her math duties, Kerslake serves as adviser to the junior class at Frederick High. As such, she is involved in planning the prom, helping an adopted family at Christmas and redoing one of the school's bathrooms as a class project. She also helps coach the academic team.

Kerslake was nominated for the statewide honor last spring by colleague Kathy House. Later, she was notified that she needed to fill out a detailed application, which included writing an essay on her philosophy of teaching.

Kerslake was observed in her classroom by Betty Mayfield from the board of the Maryland Council of Teachers of Mathematics and chairperson of the math department at Hood.

"She is a dynamo," Mayfield said. "It was clear the students like and respect her, as well as her fellow teachers, several of whom stopped in to ask her a question while I was there."

The word came in late November that Kerslake won.

Kerslake was quick to credit mentors in her life for her success.

"Leona Grove, who taught at Heritage, gave me a very good foundation," Kerslake said. Grove now is retired and living in Pennsylvania.

Another influential teacher, Frank Woodring, had only good things to say about his former pupil.

"Andrea was a wonderful kid, very dependable," said Woodring, who taught for 24 years at Heritage Academy. Woodring remembered Kerslake for her strong academics, as well as her efforts on the yearbook and school newspaper staffs and Heritage's softball team.

When she learned she won the state honor, Kerslake said she contacted Woodring, whom she described as much more than a teacher to her.

"Ten years ago, I never knew I'd be standing here teaching math," Kerslake said, let alone being named the math teacher of the year for Maryland.

The only teacher in her immediate family, she is the daughter of Eileen Kerslake of Hagerstown and Richard Kerslake of Frederick.

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