LeAnn Schueneman's 23 fourth-graders will not only be entering a classroom when they come back to school Monday, but also their home away from home, to be known as "Schuville."
"My room is going to be known as Schuville," the first-year teacher at Bel Air Elementary School said Tuesday.
The name is a combination of her last name and the fictional burg of Whoville, the setting of the Dr. Seuss children's classic, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Schueneman, one of two new teachers at Bel Air Elementary for the 2013-2014 school year, was in her room Tuesday afternoon, putting up decorations, including inspirational lines from Dr. Seuss stories.
"I think there's important messages [in the stories]," she said. "I also think that they're identifiable characters."
A poster with the line "A person's a person no matter how small," from "Horton Hears a Who," was placed above the door.
"I want my students to feel like this is their second home, and I'm going to present it to them that way," Schueneman explained.
Schueneman and her fellow new teacher are among 43 teachers at Bel Air Elementary, which serves 505 students; the school also has 22 support staffers as well as Principal Dyann Mack, Assistant Principal Rose Martino and Melissa Surgeon, the instructional facilitator.
Mack said the two new teachers are filling vacant slots in the school staff; she said Bel Air was able to maintain the name number of teachers as last year.
The members of the Harford County Board of Education approved in June cuts of more than 100 positions system-wide to help reconcile Harford County Public Schools' budget for the 2014 fiscal year.
Mack said two teaching slots at Bel Air Elementary opened after two former teachers resigned.
"We were able to hire for those two vacancies," she said.
Mack said Bel Air has "a very stable staff," and some teachers have been at the school for decades.
The principal noted the veteran teachers' former students are now grown up, and their children are being taught by those same educators.
"They're getting another generation of children coming in," Mack said.
Schueneman was preparing for her first generation of students.
"I really want to make my classroom a warm and inviting learning space for my students," she said.
Schueneman grew up in Topeka, Ks., but has lived in Harford County for eight years. Her husband is stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground, and she has two children, one who will be a freshman at Bel Air High School and one who will be a seventh grader at Bel Air Middle School.
She has previous experience working in the Harford County schools, starting as a substitute teacher, and then as an inclusion helper at Forest Hill Elementary School from 2007 to 2010.
She spent much of her time assisting special education students.
"I really found that I had a love for all the students, and I found I had knack for taking the teacher's plan and differentiating it for the children who learned a different way or had special needs," Schueneman recalled.
She obtained her bachelor's degree from Fort Hays State University this spring, and is certified to teach elementary and special education.
Schueneman said she was "honored and blessed to be back in the county [schools], on the other side of the desk."
Teri Kranefeld, manager of communications for the public schools, said there are 118 new teachers in Harford County this year.
"All newly hired certificated staff are invited to a comprehensive teacher induction program prior to the first day of school," she wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. "This program serves as a welcome and orientation to Harford County Public Schools. The program is designed to prepare all new hires for the upcoming school year and includes activities to maximize student achievement."
Veterans advise new HdG teachers
Havre de Grace High School's four new teachers have obtained their college degrees; they have been through student teaching, substitute teaching, days of in-service training and now they are preparing for their first day as full-fledged teachers.
Two of Havre de Grace's veteran teachers provided wisdom gained from decades on the job.
Kirsten Somers, a culinary arts teacher who will be starting her 18th year when classes begin Monday, and AP world history and AP European history teacher Alex Spooner, who has spent his entire 40-year career at Havre de Grace High, spoke to new teachers Monica Fernandez, Lyndsey Fisher, Eliza Neumer and Rob Scott in the school's media center Wednesday.
"Your first year's going to be tough, but after that, it gets easier and easier," said Somers, who has also spent her entire teaching career at HHS.
Education is a second career for Somers; she entered the profession at age 40 after a career as a restaurant manager.
"I was 40 years old when I started, and it just blew me away," she said of teaching.
Spooner, who is a 1969 graduate of Havre de Grace, said every day is different when teaching, even after four decades in the classroom.
"That's the absolute truth, you never get bored," he said. "Forty years in, and I'm still saying to myself, 'Jeez, that's never happened before.' "
Spooner said new teachers should "understand that it's a learning process, that you'll find out what works for you," and they will learn new tricks as they go, tricks that they can put in their "tool box."
"Basically, the bigger the tool box, the more problems you can solve," he explained.
Fernandez, Fisher, Neumer and Scott are among 43 teachers serving about 650 students at Havre de Grace High.
The school has a total staff of about 50, including teachers, Principal Jim Reynolds said.
Havre de Grace lost one teaching position, and Reynolds said the four new teachers are filling slots that were vacant.
Why they teach
Scott is a 2013 graduate of Towson University; he obtained his bachelor's degree in mathematics, and will be teaching math to grades nine through 12.
The son of educators was a substitute teacher for four years in his native Caroline County; he said he loved the interaction with students, and will teach math because it was his "best subject."
"It's still what I would call my calling," he said.
Fisher will teach biology and environmental science; she obtained her bachelor's in animal science from the University of Delaware in 2008, and began working for an animal hospital after college.
Her mother is a teacher and will be starting her 35th year in education in Middletown, De.
Fisher said she did not intend to be teacher, but found herself in the role while at the animal hospital, educating clients on pet care and training new staffers.
She said she enjoyed hearing from clients who told her that her recommendations had worked, and so she got her master's degree in teaching from Delaware in 2013.
Fisher said she wants to "get the younger generation interested in science and the applications of it."
Neumer got her bachelor's degree in English from Towson University in 2008 and will teach English to ninth graders at Havre de Grace.
She said she loves "to read and I love to write and I love literature," and wants her students to "appreciate what I love."
The 2001 graduate of Fallston High School previously worked as a substitute teacher in Harford County.
Fernandez is also a 2013 graduate of Towson and studied elementary education and special education as an undergraduate.
She will teach strategic and corrective reading and will co-teach with Neumer.
She was a student teacher in Harford County, specializing in special education at Hickory Elementary School and general education at Joppatowne Elementary.
Fernandez said teaching "was something I had in the back of my head since I was little."
She said she would pretend to teach as a child, and help fellow students as she got older.
"I had my own chalkboard," she said, recalling her pretend teaching days. "I really wanted an overheard projector."