Washington County teachers prepare classrooms for students' arrival

August 22, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE |
  • Smithsburg High School English teacher Kurt Conaway organizes his classroom Monday afternoon in preparation for Wednesday's start to the new school year.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG — The school year begins Wednesday for Washington County Public Schools’ projected 22,195 students and 1,682 teachers.

Many of those teachers are classroom teachers, several of whom spent the early part of this week getting training and preparing their classrooms for the first day.

For some, that meant moving into a new classroom.

With the help of his daughter, Emily, 15, Smithsburg High teacher Brian Getz was still moving into his classroom Monday. The high school got new windows this summer, then the floors were waxed, and some teachers were moving into new classrooms. Getz was moving his health and life skills materials into a former art classroom in a different building.

“Just unpacking, purging, throwing some stuff away, dusting, moving it from point A to point B, and kind of basically starting over before the kids come on Wednesday,” said Getz, who was in his last classroom for at least nine of the 19 years he has been teaching at Smithsburg High.


A mountain of boxes sat outside the classroom into which he was moving.

Earth science teacher Alicia Robertson also was moving into a new classroom because a new chemistry teacher needed a room with access to gas for Bunsen burners.

“I did not need gas for earth science, so I gave her my room,” Robertson said.

“I actually had some very nice students who helped me. Custodians transferred it over here,” Robertson said of the move. A lot of the materials she needed moved were rocks and minerals.

In addition to moving into and preparing their classrooms, Smithsburg High teachers have been planning for the new schedule change at the high school that results in yearlong courses for foreign language and core subjects such as English and science.

Robertson taught a yearlong earth science course last year, but it was only a 45-minute period. With the new schedule, the class will get an extra 15 minutes a day.

“It’s a really good thing for science because it, it’s very, very difficult to do a lab in 45 minutes,” she said.

English teacher Angela Maatman, who was at Washington County Technical High School last school year, was moving into a new classroom at Smithsburg High.

To start getting familiar with her new students, Maatman said she reviewed their assessment and benchmark test data and, for returning students, talked to some of their previous teachers.

Maatman was getting some help Monday from fellow English teacher Kurt Conaway, who assisted her with moving furniture into her classroom.

Conaway said the English teachers had training Monday morning and some were spending the afternoon getting their classrooms ready.

He had just moved into a new classroom.

“It’s still not ready, but it’s close,” said Conaway, who teaches Advanced Placement literature and Studies in Composition.

Jennifer Perkins was in her English classroom “unpacking the Common Core.”

Perkins said she did some studying this summer to get to know better the Common Core standards educators need to fully implement into a more rigorous curriculum by the 2013-14 school year.

While starting anything new can cause a little “trepidation,” Perkins said, “I feel really good about the new standards and goals. I think they’re wonderful.”

The new curriculum, which the local school system started implementing last school year, calls for students to read and analyze more nonfiction works, including primary documents such as speeches.

Perkins is going to have her American Literature students compare two drafts of the Declaration of Independence and create their own.

“I always said history and English are very closely related,” Perkins said. “You  have to understand the times to understand the piece, to understand the author’s motive and purpose.”

Latin teacher Tootie Godlove-Ridenour, who has taught at Smithsburg High for 35 years, said she was busy photocopying papers for class and reviewing materials.

Godlove-Ridenour was happy about the new energy-efficient windows in her classroom. With the old windows there was an air vent hole, which made the room “freezing” in the winter, she said.

Smithsburg High graduate Brady Boyer, 18, stopped by Godlove-Ridenour’s classroom Monday to introduce her to his younger sister, Ally, 14, who will take Latin this school year.

Godlove-Ridenour greeted her with a hug and enthusiasm.

“Every day I want them to be happy to walk through this door, to learn Latin,” Godlove-Ridenour said.

By the numbers

Washington County Public Schools

22,195 projected students

1,682 active teachers

207 custodians

225 cafeteria workers

194 school buses

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