Nurse/teacher likes keeping her classes lively

May 02, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

Editor's note: This is the eighth in a monthly series highlighting excellent educators in Washington County high schools.

HAGERSTOWN - After a lifetime of experiences and locales, Marji Kellman is not embarrassed to make up words or stand on desks and sing.

"Frou-frou" and "hoohah" are as much a part of the 49-year-old nurse's vocabulary as ominous sounding medical words ending in "itus" and "otis."

A daily dose of fun is her prescription for life.

"I've always liked my job, don't get me wrong, but I dreaded going to work," said Kellman, who teaches at Washington County Technical High School. "It was like, 'I've got to go to work ... I've got to go to work ... I've got to go to work,' I never do that here. I enjoy every minute.'"


Kellman has taught students interested in the health fields for 14 years at the high school. The registered nurse, who lives with her family in Frederick County, has worked in burn centers, emergency rooms and pediatric units in several states.

Kellman calls herself wild and wacky. Students say that's definitely true.

"She's really interesting. She doesn't bore you to death like most teachers. She keeps the class alive," junior Sarah Maloy, 16, said.

Kellman is in her first year as lead adviser to SkillsUSA, a national organization for vocational students. The position allows the mother of two to meet students pursuing a variety of fields.

They're all "my kids," Kellman said.

"I like the fact that they can feel really comfortable and ask me anything," Kellman said.

Kellman's office is filled with photos and memorabilia from students who have graduated.

Pink flamingos stand sentry atop the desks and shelves in Kellman's office and classroom - she's a fan of tacky - and a little yellow Post-it proclaims one of the teacher's favorite nonsense words.

Hoohah, Kellman said, is anything that's commonly accepted as true, but isn't.

"The whole purpose," Kellman said, "is to see what really is out there."

Kellman's students are dispelling one stereotype about the technical school. Most go on to college, she said.

Kellman's class is so popular that more than half of the students who applied for placement next year will be turned down. According to Kellman, 52 students have applied for 20 slots.

Maloy and other students said the class is challenging, but Kellman, who stocks a closet with prizes for games, keeps it lively.

Juniors in the health class learn fundamentals, beginning the first day with a lesson on hand washing to prevent the spread of goobers - germs. Seniors get hands-on experience in health-care settings, such as Washington County Hospital, Kellman said.

Kellman said she tries to keep lessons relevant - the Terri Schiavo case and an episode of NBC's health drama, "ER," both inspired recent class discussions - and works to expose her students to reality.

Kellman said she enjoys watching students figure things out and separate hoohah from reality. She likes watching them grow up; she hates letting them go.

"This has been my favorite job so far," Kellman said. "I mean, I love ER nursing, don't get me wrong, but this one keeps me young."

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