Anne Arundel school district prepares new teachers for coming year

Marley Elementary School teacher Kelly Closs is about two weeks from stepping head-first into role reversal.

The first-year teacher concedes that while growing up in New Jersey, she didn't like elementary school. Her teachers, she said, never grabbed her attention, and the classes didn't mesh with her energetic persona.

Closs spoke last week about what lay ahead for her during Anne Arundel County public schools' New Teacher Orientation, a three-day event for educators that are either new to the profession or new to the school district.

The orientation offered teachers a firsthand look at what to expect from a system that begins its new calendar year in two weeks.

Closs, who will teach fifth-grade language arts, said she wants to ensure her students don't come away with the same sentiments about school she had.

"I'm going to do my best to find their interests and incorporate that into everything I'm teaching to keep them entertained and involved and learning at the same time," said Closs, a Halethorpe resident. She said she hopes to incorporate the kind of learning environment she had in high school, an experience that helped lead her into teaching.

"I loved it in high school," Closs said, "because I had more control over my education."

School system officials said the three-day orientation is conducted, in part, to help new teachers embrace a classroom approach that will tell students that they, too, have control over their education.

Andrea Mucci, manager for the county schools' Right Start program for new teachers, said the orientation also introduces new teachers to the school system while addressing such areas as classroom management, professionalism, cultural proficiency and other issues.

For first-year teachers, the biggest challenge is classroom management, "regardless of their preparation," Mucci said. On Monday, the first of the three days, teachers visited their home schools, where they were greeted by a beginning-teacher liaison.

"They get information about the school's culture: How do you call in the substitutes, how do you log onto your computer? What are the school's initiatives? What's the school's philosophy?" Mucci said.

Sydney Harper of Arnold will be teaching at Shipley's Choice Elementary in Millersville. She said she will draw from a childhood that included attending school overseas, in such countries as Bangladesh and Guatemala.

"It was my personality that lent itself really well to being a teacher, because I moved every couple of years and I had to make new friends," Harper said. "School was the quickest way for me to jump right in and build a new community for myself.

"I was a teacher's pet. I would walk around and check students' work," Harper said. "My teachers said, 'She should be a teacher anyway.' "

Ryan Lay of Severna Park, who will teach social studies at J. Albert Adams Academy in Annapolis, said much of the preparation during orientation centered on how to set up an environment that will help engage students as soon as the new year begins. The preparation, he said, "takes a little ... off our shoulders.

"We're working on routine procedures, especially for ... setting up how we want the classroom and how kids can be more productive through that first week," Lay said.

Mucci has been leading new-teacher support for eight years but has been in the Anne Arundel school system for more than 40. She said she sees many similarities — and some striking differences — between today's teachers and those of years past.

"They come more knowledgeable about pedagogy," Mucci said. "They know far more about technology … technology once was an overhead projector. But what remains the same is their idealism and their belief they will make a difference.

"They have so much more responsibility, so much more to handle in a day — content, technology, the initiatives, just the day-to-day responsibilities," Mucci said. "And now this year they're going to have to write the Student Learning Objectives. They're going to learn about the new Teacher Principal Evaluation, the Common Core, so they have a whole lot more to do than just teach content."

The new teachers were addressed on Monday by Anne Arundel County interim Superintendent Mamie Perkins, who was recently appointed by the school board to replace Superintendent Kevin Maxwell.

"All of you are starting a new journey, just as I am," Perkins told them.

"We will travel this road together," she said. "We will learn this place together, and what's important for us to do to be successful — because it's important to me that you're successful."

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad