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Teachers prepare for year by becoming students first

August 13, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - While waiting for desks in their own classrooms to be filled, some teachers became students in the Washington County Public Schools New Teachers Academy, now in its fourth year.

About 180 teachers new to the school system spent seven days learning about county policies, curriculum, classroom management and other topics. The academy was held Aug. 1-3 and Aug. 7-10.

"The intent is to provide (teachers) with an opportunity to learn about and be able to practice curriculum and instruction," said Carol Corwell-Martin, supervisor of professional development.

About 100 middle and high school teachers and 80 elementary school teachers were enrolled. Corwell-Martin said those numbers might have changed as more teachers were hired and added to the rosters.

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She said teachers started by covering broad topics, then job-specific issues, and finally were asked to choose from among workshops on cooperative learning, discipline, preparing for the SAT and other areas of interest.

"We need to offer these choices based on the individual's needs," Corwell-Martin said.

Katie Deuell, 24, of Martinsburg, W.Va., participated in the academy, and will teach first grade at Williamsport Elementary School this year. She graduated this year from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

"As a brand new teacher and brand new to the county, the academy really helped focus me to (the school system's) vision," Deuell said.

Corwell-Martin said time spent on professional development for teachers is intended to help students. If teachers are trained, have a support system of other teachers and have available resources, they will be more effective.

Of Washington County's newly hired teachers, 60 percent are new to teaching, and the other 40 percent are new to the county.

Corwell-Martin said that when she was a new teacher in 1978, she was offered a half-day workshop to cover topics such as her insurance.

"We give them this level of support in the beginning," she said. "But it's not going to stop."

Ken Boheim, 67, of Hancock, is a first-year teacher who retired from the U.S. Postal Service after 28 years. He spent three years earning his master's degree in teaching from Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Md., after realizing he wanted to be a teacher.

Boheim will teach English and world history at Western Heights Middle School this year.

The New Teachers Academy "has more hands-on versus what we got in college," Boheim said. "This is what it's really like in the classroom."

Corwell-Martin said teachers who participated in the academy formed a support system with other teachers, who might have advice or ideas they could use throughout the year.

Dave Pugh, 55, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., taught for 31 years in Jefferson County, W.Va., and was hired in Washington County to teach social studies at South Hagerstown High School. He said even after more than three decades of teaching, he believes he can learn from other teachers.

"I still enjoy being a student," Pugh said. "And I seek out those experiences."

Corwell-Martin said those experiences won't stop at the New Teachers Academy. Washington County teachers receive this level of support throughout the year with county mentor resource teachers, student achievement specialists, curriculum and instruction specialists, and other resources.

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