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School is out for veteran teachers in Carroll County

Johns Hopkins Hospital

When the school year ends on June 12, Lois Meticus, a math teacher at South Carroll High School, will return her overhead projector to the school's media center.

She doesn't think anyone else will ever check it out.

"I'm probably the only one using a projector anymore in my department," Meticus said. "We're not using ditto machines any more."

During her 30 years of teaching, Meticus has seen many changes at the school on Old Liberty Road in Sykesville. She has worked under five principals. She has seen the student population swell to 2,000 students. And she has taught in three classrooms — one without walls until three years ago.

"You could hear what was going on in three other classrooms," Meticus said, sitting at desk in her room in the G wing that has walls.

It also has a door, which she likes to keep open. "I like the invitation of an open door," she said.

There have been two years when she got little sleep. One year was when her mother had a stroke and she was at Johns Hopkins Hospital every night. The other year was when graphic calculators came into use, opening the door for statistics to become a high school class.

"I was teaching material to myself the night before," Meticus said. "It was the toughest class ever to prepare. It was a major change."

In the last 15 years, the county has redone its math sequence three times, and next year a new program — Common Core — will come into play. While she admits she is not an expert about it, it is a far cry from when she started and was given teacher guides to textbooks and told to cover the material with her students.

She will miss her students, in the classroom and out. She has been involved with the school's ski club program for years and has enjoyed the time immensely.

"I will miss very much interacting with the kids," Meticus said."It's why I stayed 30 years in the classroom."

"She's been a wonderful teacher ... who has done a good job working with students. Outside of school, she tutors, helps with the ski club and sporting events," said Jeff Hopkins, principal of South Carroll. "Basically, she's been a standout character teacher now for the past several years here at South Carroll."

She said her co-workers, especially her fellow math teachers, will be dearly missed.

"A lot of people I worked with very closely and care about," Meticus said. "When you spend that many days ... it almost becomes like a part of your being."

"We're going to miss her," a fellow teacher yelled from down the hall. "I've been trying to get her paperwork lost in the mail the last year."

She is worried that the school system is in trouble. Many teachers, she said, are going to other counties to work.

"We are in an area where it is not that much further to travel to Howard or Montgomery (counties)," Meticus said. "We have the lowest starting salaries in the state of Maryland. He (he superintendent) knows things are starting to shift, and it is not going to go well here in Carroll County."

She is leaving for personal reasons, to help her mother who is ailing and to help out with her family's business, a bus service that the school system uses to transport students to and from an event.

So she hopes to still be around schools a small bit by driving the bus.

"You may see me still down here," Meticus laughed. "My sister wants to bury me in the office doing math."

32 Years at Westminster High

After being asked by his students for several years, John Flater went to night school and took classes in Japanese.

Now, the Westminster High School teacher teaches German as well as Japanese.

"It is a lot of fun to do, and a lot of fun to teach," Flater said, of Japanese.

As to the future of the Japanese language course next year, Flater is unsure. He is retiring this year, after 32 years of teaching at the school from which he graduated.

Flater is happy he has been able to be a full-time German teacher for all those years at his alma matter.

"It is kind of unusual," he said. "Students have to want to take it. I've always appreciated when students signed up for my classes."

Ten years ago, Flater was awarded a grant to create a small computer lab in his classroom.

"We have everything on computers now," Flater said. "It helps a lot."

Almost every other year, he has taken students abroad to visit countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria, where German is spoken.

"It's always nice to see how well-behaved our students are, compared with other parts of the country," Flater said.

He said he will miss his colleagues and students as well as the challenges of teaching.

"The great part of the job is finding new ways to do things," Flater said.

37 Years at North Carroll High

North Carroll High School has a good population of students, a good population of parents and is a nice place to be, according to Dick Weaver, who has taught agricultural science and special education and has acted as assistant principal on occasion at the school.

So it was not an easy decision for Weaver to retire after 37 years.

But it was time to move on, he said.

"It's time to get some new teachers in here," Weaver said. "I have no complaints. It's been good. Some years more trying than others, but I really never had a bad day."

One of his former students, Aaron Geiman, became one of his colleagues in the agriculture department.

In an e-mail, Geiman wrote, "Mr. Weaver has not only been an educational mentor to me, but also a second father. Unlike many late career educators, he continues to seek change and modernization in his teaching strategy and educational approach. ... He has pushed me to strive for excellence through dynamic means, rather than stagnancy. He helped to groom and to mold me into a progressive educational thinker and instilled in me a sense of looking to the future to stay ahead of those stuck in the past."

While Weaver believes Carroll County tries to stay on "the cutting edge of what is happening," he worries that it is going to be hard the next few years to keep good teachers from leaving the county.

"We train them and they go to another county," Weaver said. "It is a big issue to deal with....retaining good, quality young teachers."

Weaver's plans for retirement are still being thought out, he said, though he is considering a career in politics. .

"I'm debating it right now, thinking it through," he said. "I'm not going to sit down and buy a rocking chair just yet."

40 Years at Francis Scott Key High

During his 40 years at Francis Scott Key High School, Michael Coons has taught social studies and history to parents and grandparents — the whole multi-generational thing.

"I see them everywhere, generations," laughed Coons, of his contact with former and current students.

During his time at Key, Coons has seen the school building change two times.

"It is a totally different building than when I was here," said Coons, a graduate of Key himself.

The biggest change for Coons, however, was the conversion of a school day from seven to four "mods" (class sessions).

"It took two years of in-service training with us to get ready," Coons said. "It took some adjustment."

He enjoyed coaching football, track and weightlifting at Key.

"A big part of it is seeing kids outside of the classroom," Coons said. "You get a little better look at them."

In both the classroom and athletics, the use of computers has enhanced progress, providing information faster and more easily.

"PowerPoints, photo stories, it gives them (students) more ways to demonstrate what they learn," Koons said.

His happiest memories are of seeing student succeed in the classroom or as an athlete.

"When you see a kid who thought they couldn't do something, and they do ... that happens a lot," Koons said.

With final exams coming up, Koons doesn't have time to think about what he'll do once the final bell rings.

"It will hit me more in the fall," Koons said. "I'll miss my co-workers. It will be odd knowing they're in there doing what they're doing and I'm not."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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