The faces of Bester

August 14, 2005

Meet the new assistant principal

According to Assistant Principal Matthew Semler, working at any school is special. Working at Bester Elementary School in Hagerstown, where he grew up, is particularly sweet.

"My thought was whatever school I'm assigned to is fine with me because I am at a school," Semler said.

Semler, 29, learned of his assignment as one of two assistant principals at Bester after being hired by Washington County Public Schools.

Semler, who taught in Loudoun County, Va., for four years, said he someday wants to be a principal.

Semler has been an administrator for about three years.

A graduate of St. Maria Goretti High School, Semler said he is excited to be back home and looking forward to logging improvement at Bester.

"Absolutely, it can be done. Every child has a chance, and you just have to tap into their knowledge," Semler said.


Right where she's supposed to be

Not everyone who works in an "extremely stressful" environment in a second-choice position is unhappy.

Just ask Lori Schlosser.

She never envisioned herself in Bester Elementary School's Room 2.

"You know, I never wanted to teach kindergarten. I didn't want to have to worry about boogers and tying shoes. I wanted to teach, not be such a mommy, but, you know, I love it. This is right where I'm supposed to be," Schlosser said.

Schlosser, who on a recent day was working in a hot classroom, has found a home at Bester. The third-year teacher is among 21 staff members who are returning to the struggling Washington County elementary school.

Six teachers who applied to return to Bester will not be returning, Principal Kathy Stiles said.

"I love the hugs, the smiles. I don't mind tying shoes, doing the extras that you have to do to be a kindergarten teacher," Schlosser said.

The position is a mixture of callings - "the counselor, the mom, the teacher" - and demands, she said. That's especially true in an environment where some parents work two and three jobs just to survive, and children arrive at school looking for refuge.

Bester's restructuring this year isn't the first time Schlosser, 25, has seen teachers come and go.

"I think there's changeover because this is a stressful school. I don't know a nice way of saying it. This is an extremely stressful school," said Schlosser, who called her Bester tenure so far "an eye-opener."

Kindergarten students are easy to please and they are impressed simply because she can change the color of water, Schlosser said.

Kindergarten students these days must leave their time in Room 2 knowing much more than she did at their age.

"Some days, I leave with my hair in my hands, but some days, it's worth it, it's really worth it," Schlosser said.

Crabtree joins the fifth-grade team

Forty-one-year-old Emily Crabtree has the enthusiasm of a rookie, thanks to a midlife career change.

"It's a brand-new experience for me. I'm coming in with a positive attitude," Crabtree said in an interview in the hallway outside Bester Elementary School's library.

A longtime volleyball coach for the schools, Crabtree does not appear to be intimidated by the challenges facing Bester. Crabtree, who joins the fifth-grade team as part of a staff that's mostly new to the school, completed her student teaching at Lincolnshire Elementary School last year.

She is one of 10 new teachers, according to Principal Kathy Stiles.

Crabtree and husband Steve, a painter, are the parents of Ryan, 10, who will enter fifth grade at Williamsport Elementary School this year.

"Kids are kids, wherever they are, whatever school they're in," she said.

Crabtree always wanted to be a teacher, but a high school adviser suggested she pursue computer-related work instead. At that time, it seemed a safer route, Crabtree said. Then, she was laid off from her job in the accounts payable department of Allegheny Energy Inc. in 2003.

"I lost my job, and it was like, one door closed, another door opened," Crabtree said.

She was hired by Washington County Public Schools shortly before graduating from Frostburg State University, where she earned a master's of arts degree in teaching.

Now her job is more than earning a paycheck.

"I want to see kids succeed, I want to see kids do well. I would feel satisfied and fulfilled to see that happen, if it happens. I should say when it happens because it's going to happen," Crabtree said

Making the library a place to explore

Children will learn a new rule this year when classes return to Bester Elementary School's library: Look, but don't touch.

New media specialist Diane Mentzer is confident students will respect the fact that the boxes of stuffed animals and figurines she plans to unpack are only decorations and are off-limits.

The books are not.

"Everybody keeps telling me, 'You can't put that stuff out at Bester. It will disappear,'" Mentzer said.

A former media specialist for Paramount Elementary School, Mentzer said she doesn't believe a word of it. To the 46-year-old mother of three, kids are kids.

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