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Teachers advised to start slow

April 04, 2005|by HANS FOGLE

Editor's note: An informal survey of local guidance counselors showed that health care, education and computer technology top the most popular fields being considered by high school students. The second part of this three-part series focuses on teaching.

At the end of each workday, Shannon Romeo takes a few minutes to prepare for the next. It is one way the busy math teacher stays ahead of her students and the demands on her time.

A first-year teacher at North Hagerstown High School, Romeo teaches math to freshmen and sophomores.

Romeo, 22, has been a teacher at North High since graduating from Waynesburg (Pa.) College almost two years ago. Romeo was hired at North High during an effort to reduce classroom sizes so teachers could provide more individual attention to students. She says teaching continues to grow in popularity as a career choice, especially with increasing demand in many areas.


Among Washington County high school students, teaching is one of the more popular career goals, according to a survey of local guidance counselors.

"I decided (to teach) when I was a junior in high school," Romeo said.

Robert T. "Bo" Myers, North High principal, said that teaching is so popular that North High started a program offering an early education program for students interested in becoming teachers.

The U.S. Department of Labor shows that all 50 states and the District of Columbia have slightly different requirements for teacher certification. All require at least a bachelor's degree.

Rick Gehrman, human resources supervisor for teacher personnel for Washington County Public Schools, is in charge of hiring teachers in the County. He said that teacher certification in Maryland requires at least a bachelor's degree that must be obtained through a state-approved institution such as a college or university.

During college, potential teachers gain an education in general studies and learn the general philosophies and principles of teaching. Education students also work in local schools, where they get experience in actual classrooms.

Gehrman said 99 percent of education students take a test called Praxis I during their second year of college. That test assesses their competency in math, writing and reading.

After passing Praxis I, education students choose an area of study on which to focus for the rest of their time in school. This subject becomes their specialty and influences what classes they ultimately will teach.

Gehrman said that after education students graduate, their knowledge of their specialty is assessed by the Praxis II test.

After passing this test, graduates become eligible to become certified in the state of Maryland, and are officially certified only after being hired as teachers.

Teachers who are certified in this manner receive a Standard Professional Certificate, which is good for three years before it must be renewed, according to the Maryland State Department of Education. Other certificates are available, but they require further education and training.

"I felt really well prepared for lesson planning," Romeo said of her educational experience, but the most challenging aspect for Romeo was classroom management.

Romeo described the difficulties a new teacher faces in establishing guidelines for students. She says walking the line between too strict and too lenient can be challenging at first, so setting reasonable guidelines early on is challenging, but necessary.

Romeo said she was lucky because her department was very helpful.

"If you want an easy job, do not go into teaching," Romeo said.

She said that first-year teachers need time to adjust to running a classroom. Romeo advised first-year teachers to start slow and build.

"Do not let administration push you into extra activities your first year," she said.

Romeo said teaching takes dedication and effort. Teachers endure years of education, training and learning before actually teaching students, but for Romeo, reaching students is the reward.

"That's what keeps me going every day," she said.

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