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It's not rocket science: Bantz knows time is now

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When Frederick Bantz started teaching in the 1970s, he promised himself one thing: When it wasn't fun anymore, he would leave.

That day has come for Bantz, who has been teaching 37 years — 32 of them in the Howard County Public School System and 10 years at Hammond High School in Columbia. He's taught at six of the county's 12 high schools, and while he still loves his students and loves teaching, he said additional work required of teachers these days is "overwhelming."

With the new mandated Common Core standards, new teacher evaluation system and more standardized testing, paperwork has increased "ten-fold," said Bantz, 60, of Frederick. As work for teachers increases, so too do the number of hoops students have to jump through, he said.

"You know, if you don't get it, you don't get it. It's not like it used to be. Time marches on and things have to change, but my time is done."

Bantz coached at various high schools for 25 years, in addition to his work as a science teacher. Currently a chemistry teacher at Hammond, Bantz said the trick to conveying the intricacies of science is to get the students "hooked."

"You have pneumonic devices, clever sayings, demonstrations or activities," he said. "Once you get them hooked, you reel them in. You have to get out of their way sometimes, they're so interested of what's going on."

That moment a student gets hooked — the "light-bulb moment," Bantz said — is inspirational.

Bantz now has former students as co-workers. That's neat, he said, as is the fact that grandchildren of students he had when he was younger tell him they've already heard stories about him from older generations.

"It's humbling that they remember what you did in class so many years ago," Bantz said. "Sometimes, you know you've reached a kid. Other times, it's years, decades before you know you got through to them."

Teaching is a calling but also a profession, Bantz said, and teachers need to be treated like professionals.

"Ask our opinion, and we'll tell you what we need and want," he said.

In retirement, Bantz said he's hoping to spend more time with his grandchildren and possibly travel. But immediately, he said, he's "just going to relax" for a while.

"In education, everyone is going 100,000 miles an hour, and you need to take time to look and get the whole picture. Learning takes time," he said. "Sometimes, you can't see the forest for the trees."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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