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Northern Middle School teachers excited as they prepared for start of classes

District readies for various changes this year

August 20, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • Kristie Callahan, a sixth-grader teacher at Northern Middle School, prepares her classroom for students.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

More than 22,300 Washington County Public Schools system students return to the classroom Wednesday, but their teachers have been busy for days setting up their classrooms ahead of time.

Spanish teacher Lauren Ebersole said she was excited to have her own classroom this year at Northern Middle School in Hagerstown, after having to move from room to room last year, using a cart to haul her materials.

Brian Cooper spent his first day in his classroom a week ago, when he began organizing desks into clusters.

“I’m excited. I’ve had a lot of substitute teaching experience, so I’ve worked with children before, which is a passion of mine. ... But, until you’re in your own room, ... running the show on your own ... you really don’t know what goes into teaching, so I’m definitely excited and I’m looking forward to working with middle-schoolers,” said Cooper, who will teach eighth-grade English at Northern Middle.

Heather Fetterman also is starting her first full-time teaching job.

Fetterman said she will teach English Language Arts and social studies to seventh-graders at Northern Middle.

“So, I’m looking forward to having my own room and my own kids,” she said.

This school year brings some changes, including a modernized student dress code, new report cards for elementary school students, and field-testing of new assessment tests in some classes.

The new elementary school report cards, discussed by the Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday, will provide the traditional letter grades, but also numeric scores that signify a student’s progress in meeting various learning standards.

The new report cards will be a better match with the more rigorous math and reading Common Core State Standards the school system has been phasing into the curriculum in recent years, school system officials said.

Boonsboro, Clear Spring, Hancock Senior, North Hagerstown, South Hagerstown and Williamsport high schools will join Smithsburg High in having yearlong courses for English, math, science, social studies, foreign languages, band, orchestra and chorus, said Rick Akers, director of secondary schools and student services.

Several students who live in the Cortland housing complex and attended Pangborn Elementary School in Hagerstown last school year will attend Paramount Elementary this year as a result of a redistricting effort to relieve overcrowding at Pangborn.

On the streets, the school system has two school buses outfitted with cameras in an effort to reduce the number of drivers who illegally pass school buses when the buses stop to pick up or drop off students, Transportation Supervisor Barbara Scotto said.

Cameras soon will be installed on 18 more school buses, Scotto said.

During a bus driver survey on April 17, county drivers noted that 81 vehicles illegally passed stopped school buses, Scotto said.

In the classroom, teachers will continue to implement the more rigorous math and reading Common Core State Standards into their lesson plans.

Cooper said his students will be reading and writing every day.

Kristie Callahan, who will teach English Language Arts to sixth-graders, said that over the summer she read some of the new novels she wants her students to read.

Ebersole said she expected to be both excited and nervous today, even though she already knows her seventh- and eighth-grade students from the last school year.

For Callahan, it’s a new school in a new school system for her 13th year of teaching.

“Excited. I’m going to feel like a new kid all over. I’m going to feel like a new student in this building,” Callahan said.

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