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She looks for ways to inspire

December 12, 2005|By KAREN HANNA

Editor's note: This the second story in an occasional series profiling teachers who were nominated last year for Washington County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.

HAGERSTOWN

karenh@herald-mail.com

Not all the students in extended English 9 consider themselves readers. But sharing their own poetry gets them excited.

Welcome to "open mike poetry share," in South Hagerstown High School Room 123.

Teacher Lisa Fichthorn-Scumpieru, one of last year's Washington County Public Schools Teacher of the Year finalists, always is looking for creative ways to reach and inspire her students. Last year, students in her extended English 9 class wrote Dear Abby letters in the voice of Romeo and Juliet and created vanity plates for characters of the William Shakespeare tragedy.

"She gets us into learning, instead of talking, taking notes," student Kaylyn Metz said.

On Thursday, Kaylyn and her classmates learned about newspaper writing and read poems, including one inspired by playground equipment photographed during a picture-snapping tour of the school grounds earlier this year.

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Fichthorn-Scumpieru said she is inspired by her students. She said she has seen students persevere when every word of a read-aloud assignment was a challenge.

"You look at a kid who's struggling to say all his words, and he's made fun of by all his peers, and he doesn't care ... Those are the kids you look at and say, 'Wow,'" Fichthorn-Scumpieru said in an interview several weeks ago.

Tenth-grade honors English students Ashley Frederickson, Megan Hammond and Brittany Pritchard all said they were not fond of English before having Fichthorn-Scumpieru as their teacher. Now, the girls are planning to take Advanced Placement English next year.

"She helps us come up with the knowledge, and then she'll test us on it, so it's not just her spoon-feeding us the information," Brittany said.

Fichthorn-Scumpieru said Wednesday she requires her students to write insights and questions about the books they read. Honors students organize their own discussions around that work, while students in Fichthorn-Scumpieru's on-grade-level 10th-grade class are prompted to talk about the parts of their journals she highlights for them, she said.

Projects about the allusions and idioms in "Lord of the Flies" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" cover the walls in Room 123, and behind Fichthorn-Scumpieru's desk are pictures of her 7 1/2-month-old baby, Lucas.

The little boy ? at 25 pounds, Fichthorn-Scumpieru said he is a big infant ? was born a day after the school system announced its Teacher of the Year.

"My water broke four hours, no, two hours, before the actual dinner," Fichthorn-Scumpieru, 34, recalled with a laugh.

Fichthorn-Scumpieru said Wednesday she always wanted to be a teacher. When she was about 6 or 7, she got a chalkboard as a present, and she began her lessons in earnest in front of her closet.

"My mom said I used to line my stuffed animals up ... teach them how to spell. My mom said I used to even turn around to tell them to stop talking," Fichthorn-Scumpieru said.

Kaylyn's classmate's were loud and rowdy Thursday as they talked about poetry and brainstormed ideas for a newspaper story. They have been reading a book called "Bronx Masquerade," which is structured around the "open-mike" poems of 18 diverse students in a fictional class.

According to Fichthorn-Scumpieru, the "Bronx Masquerade" students celebrate their achievements just as her students do ? by framing their work and hanging it from the walls.

Though recognition for Fichthorn-Scumpieru's own efforts was interrupted by an even bigger event ? Lucas' birth ? the teacher said her other children always were on her mind. Even from her hospital bed, she thought about school.

"I was like, 'They're having sustained silent reading right now, and I just had a baby,'" Fichthorn-Scumpieru recalled in a dreamy voice. "And, everybody was looking at me, and they knew I was a teacher."

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