Advertisement

With combined 96 years of service, three teachers to retire from Wash. Co. Job Development Program

June 08, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Job Development Program teachers, right to left, Margie Wolverton, Betty Schriver and Nina Clopper hold back tears as Principal Amy Norris, left, announces their retirement at the graduation commencement Tuesday morning for Marshall Street School and Washington County Job Development Program.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

If you want to know what working with hundreds of students challenged with various developmental or learning disabilities over the past three to four decades has meant to Nina Clopper, Betty Schriver and Margie Wolverton, you just had to see them on stage at a recent graduation.

Taken by surprise when Washington County Job Development Program Principal Amy Norris invited them on stage to recognize them for their service, the women spoke from their hearts.

“I want to thank everybody for their support and, mostly, I want to thank the students,” said Clopper, choking up as she left the podium.

Schriver talked about the school being a success because people worked as a team.

“We can’t stand alone. We stand together. And it’s always been a privilege to work with your children and the students,” she said.

Then, it was Wolverton’s turn, and she warned the audience she hoped she could hold it together.

“Working at JDP has been my biggest blessing. And thank you for sharing your children with me. I appreciate it. And it’s been the best years of my life. Thank you,” an emotional Wolverton said.

The three women, with a combined 96 years of service teaching students in the program, are retiring this summer. They were three of five job development program teachers during the past school year.

The program teaches academics and job skills to students with developmental, intellectual or learning disabilities, autism or orthopedic impairment.

Norris said all three positions will be filled.

Having the three teachers with so much experience leave at once is “a huge loss for the program,” Norris said in an interview last week.

“The teaching profession is going to lose three very dedicated teachers. These gals are wonderful,” said Pat Hare, whose daughter, Trisha, graduated from the program in 2008.

While Trisha didn’t have Clopper for a specific class, all of the program’s teachers know all of the students, Pat Hare said.

Martha Hoffman, whose son, Jair Farfan, began the program this past school year, called the three teachers “wonderful” and “awesome.”

“They’re just amazing. Any problem my son has is resolved right away,” Hoffman said, noting that the teachers frequently call her to keep her updated on her son’s progress.

The three women recently sat down with The Herald-Mail to discuss their careers, which for Clopper and Schriver began when the job development program was the Kemp Horn Vocational Center south of Smithsburg.


Over the years

Thirty-six years ago, Clopper became the first of the three to start working at the Kemp Horn Vocational Center, a building on Federal Lookout Road.

The Rev. Kemp Horn, who had a daughter with disabilities, left the land for the establishment of a program such as the vocational center, Clopper said.

In 1984, the school board changed the school’s name twice — finally settling on the Washington County Job Development Center — to distinguish it from the nearby Kemp Horn Home, a residential facility for people with disabilities, according to Herald-Mail archives.

The program moved from the Smithsburg area to Marshall Street School in Hagerstown’s West End in 2004.

At the time Clopper started teaching, there were no mainstream programs for students with developmental  disabilities, she said.

Students with severe disabilities now attend Marshall Street School from elementary school through high school.

Many students with disabilities go to comprehensive elementary, middle and high schools, where they take specialized academic and life-skills classes, but might attend some classes with the rest of their schoolmates, Clopper said.

When those students’ four years at high school are finished, they can choose to go to the Job Development Program to get further education and job training. The students graduate from the program when they are 21, and many are set up to go to an agency for further job training.


Getting started

At age 14, Clopper began volunteering for a New York after-school program in which she participated in different leisure activities with special-needs students, she said. She heard about reporter Geraldo Rivera’s investigations into poor conditions at a New York institution for people with intellectual disabilities, and that “hooked me,” Clopper said.

She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in special education and applied for 60 jobs. As she was leaving the local Board of Education offices after her interview, “they ran after me” and offered her the job, she said.

“I think it was a very good decision,” Clopper said of accepting the job offer and building a career with the program.

A year after Clopper started teaching at the vocational center, Schriver joined the program.

Schriver said she majored in family consumer science at Penn State University and, as part of her education, helped a girl with special needs with schoolwork and took her places.

When she graduated, home economics jobs were becoming harder to find, but Schriver got a job at the Franklin County (Pa.) Learning Center, which served special-needs students.

Because she was the center’s first home economics teacher, she was sent to explore other programs to get ideas on how to build the Pennsylvania program, said Schriver, 58, of Waynesboro, Pa.

During one such visit, to the Kemp Horn Vocational Center, the vice principal learned about Schriver’s background in family consumer science and food service jobs, and asked her to apply for the vacant food services teacher position.

Schriver got the job.

Wolverton, whose mother was a teacher, earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Shepherd College.

She said she developed a program for two low-functioning special-needs students while teaching home economics at an Allegany County, Md., high school in the 1960s.

“I felt a real need for them to have some kind of education,” said Wolverton, her voice breaking.

While raising her children in Washington County, she taught nursery school and had some students who “swayed me toward special ed,” Wolverton said.

“I just felt drawn toward special ed,” and got called for an interview for the Washington County Job Development Center, she said. She started the job 25 years ago.

Wolverton said she earned a master’s degree in special education from Hood College while working at the Job Development Center.

“Best thing that ever happened to me. I feel it was a calling,” Wolverton said of her career with the school.


On the job

Among Wolverton’s duties are teaching domestic services, such as how to do laundry, and overseeing students’ handling of custodial services at Hagerstown Community College’s Valley Mall site.

She teaches citizenship, including current events and getting students involved in volunteer projects, and functional math, such as telling time and reading schedules and menus.

She also is the program’s liaison with Horizon Goodwill.

This past school year was the first time undergraduates went to Horizon Goodwill, where they hung clothes for the organization’s thrift shops and got a taste of what further job training at Goodwill would be like after graduation, Wolverton said.

Wolverton “has a tenderness that ... drives what she does and a deep concern for each student,” said former Marshall Street School Principal Gael Butcher, who retired Feb. 1.

Schriver said that teaching food services gave her a glimpse at how students enjoy hands-on activities.

“In this program, we have so many different ability levels,” Schriver said.

Rather than have the lower-functioning students watch the higher-functioning students do the work, she assigned each student tasks based on his or her abilities, she said.

In the early 1980s, Schriver created an in-school business with students operating a snack bar as an alternative to the school’s cafeteria. The students started by offering a salad bar, and now they prepare and sell hot and cold lunches, and cater school system activities for small groups.

“I wanted to have them ... be proud of their product. I wanted them to learn to work together. I wanted them to make it as real as a business as I could to give them job skills,” Schriver said.

During the May 22 graduation ceremony, Schriver told the audience that students “don’t learn to work hard unless they’re given work to do, and that’s what we were all about.”

Butcher said Schriver “consistently set high expectations for student performance and the students ... rose to those expectations.”

Clopper teaches language arts, social skills and career education, such as work habits.

The lessons Clopper teaches students include vocabulary dealing with medicines, foods and home life; how to fill out applications; how to understand schedules and instructions; and how to relate to people at school and at home, she said.

She also helps organize activities such as the prom and graduation.

Norris held up two zipped bags Clopper left her.

One contained a printed timeline for graduation preparations and the other held a flashdrive with information about career exploratory tours Clopper has organized for students.

Butcher said Clopper is “by far one of the most ... organized teachers I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.”

Once a week, Clopper takes students to a local business so they can learn about career options, employee rules and work skills needed at different jobs. Among the more than 150 places they have visited in the past four years are Dot Foods, Gold’s Gym and museums, she said.

This school year, for the first time, the program held a portfolio day in May at HCC for seniors to show their work to teachers, agencies, parents and each other, Clopper said.

She said the event was important because it gave students a chance to express a sense of accomplishment and pride, and enabled them to show the public what the Job Development Program does.


Retirement plans

Asked what they would miss most about teaching for the Job Development Program, Wolverton and Clopper mentioned the students, with Schriver nodding her head in agreement.

They said they wouldn’t miss the paperwork, which Clopper said often kept her busy late into the night.

Wolverton, who lives in Falling Waters, W.Va., was the first to announce her retirement.

Her husband, Paul, retired in March from his job as a psychiatrist for the school system.

Clopper, 59, of Williamsport, was the next to say she would retire. Her husband, Darryl, retired two years ago after 37 years with the Job Development Program.

“Betty always said when I left, she was leaving,” Clopper said of Schriver.

Clopper said she would like to do some tutoring, and expressed an interest in joining a program in which adults read to children during breakfast at Ruth Ann Monroe Primary School.

Wolverton said she would like to continue to do something with the students in the Job Development Program, and spend more time with her grandchildren.

Schriver said she might substitute teach or find a part-time job.

She’s also looking forward to spending more time with her granddaughters, who are 2, 4 and 6 years old.

“I’m going to have grandma cooking classes,” Schriver said.

Advertisement
The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|