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English teachers attend four-day academy

July 13, 2007|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Students often have the same reaction when they first read poetry.

"They say, 'But this poem doesn't rhyme,'" Smithsburg High School English teacher Maya Montemurro said. "And they think that's bad. Kids often come to class and don't really know even how to read a poem."

Montemurro, who has taught English for about six years, gave 17 other teachers a lesson Thursday in ways to interest students in poetry and to help them understand it. That was one of several topics covered during a four-day Governor's Academy on English this week at South Hagerstown High School.

Three of the participants are teachers in Washington County Public Schools.

"It's really just this huge cram session for the (High School Assessment in English)," said Katie McNew, an English teacher at North Hagerstown High School.

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The HSA is a standardized exam that tests students in algebra, biology, English and government. In 2006, 66.5 percent of 1,653 Washington County students passed the English HSA exam, according to state data. Results from the most recent school year have not been released.

McNew will start her first full year of teaching this year, and said the information she received this week will help her better prepare students for the exam.

"I think a lot of us are still kind of scared and insecure about how to teach these kids what the state wants them to know," she said.

Going to the academy was a great way to work together with other teachers with the goal of helping students succeed, she said.

Alison Delaney, high school specialist for the Maryland State Department of Education, which organized the academy, said similar programs were taking place this summer in other parts of the state in other subjects.

Chris Downs, an English teacher at Boonsboro High School, said the information he received during the academy was useful, mostly because it is based on information directly from HSA assessments.

"These are the problems kids have been having on the test," he said.

Downs said he's looking forward to taking the information he learned back to other teachers at Boonsboro High.

Amanda Moreland, a South Hagerstown High School English teacher, said she plans to do the same.

"It's a lot of different strategies for writing and helping kids do better on the test, but not teach to the test," she said. "It's helping struggling students and getting them to be more engaged."

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