Teacher promotes reading, mentors youngsters

Mary Rogers

Mary Rogers

April 29, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

The majority of her more than 20 years in education have been spent teaching at what she calls the "tougher" schools.

Mary Rogers, 56, of Hagerstown, taught second and third grades for 13 years at Winter Street Elementary School in Washington County.

"It's in a densely populated, extremely impoverished community," she said. "A lot of single-parent families."

She is now in her third year of teaching second grade at Lincoln Elementary School in Frederick, Md., a school that did not meet state testing standards and now has extended school days and an 11-month work year for teachers instead of 10, Rogers said.

She said she left Washington County Public Schools because of philosophical differences with administration.

Instead of describing teaching in the "tougher" schools as a struggle, or a challenge, Rogers said it was a matter of divine intervention.


Rogers, who has lived in Hag-erstown for 22 years, grew up with both parents, but said she did not consider her childhood to be a happy one.

Understanding that for some of her students, reading at home might not be encouraged or even possible if there are no books in the house, Rogers piloted a reading program at Winter Street during the 1998-99 school year that she still uses today in her classroom at Lincoln Elementary.

Her students are asked to read books every night at home to a parent, as part of their regular homework. The number of books they read are tracked and the students' parents verify they have been read.

"It was hugely successful," Rogers said.

This year, her 16 students have read a combined 3,000 books.

"I've had years where the kids got to 7,000 books, and I've never had a bigger class than 19 students involved in this," she said.

Rogers called teaching at Lincoln Elementary a "challenge," but said she's committed to working there at least through the next school year.

"It's just challenging for someone who cares so much for the kids," she said. "I love what I do."

Taking students to the movies or to get a haircut is not uncommon for her.

She also is involved with helping children through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County.

"I believe so much in it," Rogers said of the mentoring program. "Just telling them they matter ... someone cares about you. It means a lot."

Rogers also received National Board Certification for teaching in December 2006. The voluntary program was established by the National Board for Professional Teaching standards. Certification is achieved through a performance-based assessment that is designed to measure what accomplished teachers should know and be able to do, according to state officials.

The process requires teachers to demonstrate how their activities, both inside and outside of the classroom, strengthen student performance and contribute to student achievement. Rogers said the process took her three years.


Name: Mary Rogers

Hometown: Hagerstown

Occupation: Second-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Frederick, Md.

What was your proudest moment?: "About four years ago I received three nominations from former students for Who's Who Among American Teachers. I had all three students in third grade. They had to be in National Honor Society or the honor roll to nominate a former teacher. I was so incredibly honored and moved by that. I was just flabbergasted and proud. It's from the kids, and that's why you do it. You just don't know who you're touching."

Whom do you most admire? Why?: Mother Teresa. "She remained faithful in such a difficult ministry where she wasn't going to end poverty and wasn't going to save all the people. It wasn't about the masses. It was just one by one by one. And that has always helped me in my job."

What's the best piece of advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?: "Life is difficult. Once you figure that out, it gets easier." That advice was from "The Road Less Traveled" by M. Scott Peck.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve?: "To retire with all of my teeth and be ambulatory." She likely will retire in eight to 10 years.

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