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She knows what makes kids click

June 30, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN

A fifth-grader's ability to add and subtract fractions would come down to a broken chocolate bar, a learning tool her tutor - an aspiring teacher - thought would make the math make sense.

"It was like she finally got it," said the tutor, Katie Cantler, who was an education major at Shepherd University at the time.

Ever since the candy bar breakthrough, "She could do any problem I gave her," Cantler said.

Cantler, 21, of Hagerstown, who graduated in June, said she wanted to be a teacher because there was something magical about watching children learn. Cantler will begin her first teaching job this fall at Emma K. Doub School for Integrated Arts & Technology. She will be teaching 25 fifth-graders in the school's magnet program.

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"I am a little nervous," Cantler said. "I don't know what to expect from the kids. I just want to be able to give them the best education possible."

It's uncommon for a 21-year-old to start teaching full time right out of college, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education. Nationally, the average age of new teachers is 29, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The average age of all elementary, middle and high school teachers is 42.

"I've always had a way with children," Cantler said. "I do know what I'm getting myself into."

Cantler said she chose to pursue a job in teaching for the same reasons that veteran teachers choose to stay in the profession for so long.

"When (students) understand something, and seeing it click in their heads, and knowing that you helped them - you didn't do it for them - that's the best feeling in the world," she said.

Cantler said one of her greatest challenges would be leaving work at work.

"If something bad happened to a student, I'd think about it all the time if (students) have a bad day," she said. "I never let them see me have a bad day, but I will take that home with me and think about how much I can make them have a good day."

Cantler said she looks forward to moments similar to the ones she shared with the fifth-grader who struggled in math. As a student teacher, Cantler remembered helping a third-grader who struggled in reading.

"The little girl was so determined," she said. "She did everything she could outside of school to better herself. At the end of the term, she gave me her favorite book. She was one of those kids you fell in love with."

Cantler saw the book, "The Giving Tree," as a symbolic gift. The book, written by Shel Silverstein, is about a little boy who comes to rely on a tree that unconditionally gave the boy all that he needed.

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