Sheila Metzel says 45 years with WCPS 'was never boring'

March 05, 2011|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Sheila Metzel is retiring in June after working for 45 years with Washington County Public Schools.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

With each passing day, every bell and departing school bus, Sheila Metzel is inching closer to the second phase of her life.

Some time in June, she'll pack her belongings and leave behind a world of adolescent egos, academic achievements and teachers who inspire.

She'll try not to get too emotional, she said. But no guarantees.

After 45 years of working with Washington County Public Schools, a lot of memories are bound to come flooding back.

Metzel, 63, began her career, not in a classroom, but in a television studio.

She had planned on becoming a teacher and as she neared graduation in 1965, the guidance counselor at North Hagerstown High School steered Metzel to Hagerstown Junior College.

Metzel had taken drama and a radio class while in school, so he made a suggestion.

"Maybe I could go to school and, at the same time, work at the television studios at (the) Washington County Board of Education," she said.

Classroom television was a mainstay in the 1960s, and there was a need for a variety of jobs as a TV crew member — from cameras to props, Metzel said.

"I became the floor manager, queuing the teacher," Metzel said. "Then I was assigned to the teleprompter, plus character generator."

"I did what was needed — everybody did," she recalled. "It all moved pretty fast and mistakes happened. But it was never boring, and we felt like we played an important role in reinforcing education."

After studying at the local college, Metzel said she began taking classes at Shepherd University. But she wanted to be closer to home and called it quits.

For 19 years, though, she continued working in television.

Along the way, Metzel married and started a family and eventually landed a job with the school system's purchasing department.

"I went from fluff to nuts and bolts," she said. "I was responsible for everything in the warehouse, all orders for classroom supplies and typewriter repairs."

She also oversaw the first deliveries of Apple computers to the schools.

"It was the beginning of a new era," she said.

Metzel stayed in that job for three years, then went to the Professional Development Center, which, at that time, was housed at Western Heights Middle School and later a studio at the board of education.

"It was a cross between an art room and a supply room," she said. "Teachers from across the county would come there to cut out decorations for bulletin boards and find what they needed for classroom projects."

As the need for the center lessened, Metzel said she moved on after 16 years and headed to Washington County Technical High School, where she remains today.

"My jobs have always been in support of instruction," she said. "Here, it's a little different."

Metzel said she has become somewhat of a jack-of-all-trades at the school "bouncing all over."

A technical specialist, Metzel supervises in-school suspension, substitutes for teachers "in just about any classroom," helps with lunch shifts and has bus duty every afternoon.

Metzel said she loves working at Tech High, "which is like no other school."

"From digital animation and design to woodworking and electrical training, the students really do get a head start on their careers," she said.

Working throughout the high school, Metzel said she has gotten to know many of the students and sometimes has conversations about their aspirations, problems and lives.

"I've become a grandma to a lot of them," she said. "And when they graduate and go across the stage, I feel a great deal of pride."

Having worked in the school system for 45 years, Metzel said it's not unusual for her to run across many former teachers and students.

Some years ago, the people she worked with during her television years held a 50th anniversary reunion, she said.

"It was so much fun visiting with people I hadn't seen in years," she said. "There were a lot of stories, a lot of memories."

Even at Tech High, former students will stop by to say hello, she said.

"It's kind of neat," she said. "It's nice to see what direction their lives have taken."

'Good time to do it'

Metzel said she has no idea what the next school year will bring emotionally.

"I don't know how I'll feel when the first day of school rolls around," she admitted. "I've considered doing some substitute work here, but we'll see."

Metzel said she had planned on retiring after 50 years "but this is a good time to do it."

She tries not to think too much about retiring and said she's not crossing off the days on a calendar.

However, she is looking forward to spending more time with her 83-year-old mother.

After years of living in Smithsburg, Metzel said she and her husband, who is an engineer with Northrop Grumman, recently moved in with her mother in Maugansville and will probably spend the summer doing some downsizing.

"We all need to get rid of stuff," she said. "That should keep me pretty busy."

She also loves to read and do arts and crafts and is hoping to pick up on some projects she put aside years ago.

Metzel said her son and daughter, who often helped teachers get their classrooms ready in the summer, are currently working in the world of education.

Her daughter is a math teacher in Prince George's County, and her son works with the credit union/customer service at Purdue University. When he was a senior in high school, Metzel said her son was a student representative for the school board.

Metzel said it's hard to believe that 45 years have passed.

"I've enjoyed almost all of it," she said. "I've done a lot of different things over my career. It was never boring. And I always had my hand on education. That makes me pretty proud."

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