Thirteen new teachers, all from varied backgrounds, have been hired at Edgewood High School for the upcoming school year. But it seems one thing helped all to select Edgewood: the tone set by the school's leader, principal Kilo Mack.
Agnes Prosceno, a new special education teacher, told Mack that while in his office Wednesday afternoon as faculty and staff got ready for the start of school Tuesday.
"We chose it because it felt like family right away," said Prosceno, who is starting her 18th year of teaching and came from Seoul, South Korea, where she was teaching children of military personnel assigned to Korea.
"He's just really easy to work with," she said. "That is a priority for me."
"Awesome!" Mack exclaimed when he heard Prosceno's praise.
Edgewood High has about 100 faculty and staff members, and the projected enrollment is 1,410, according to Mack.
The veteran HCPS school administrator is starting his second year as Edgewood's principal. He praised his staff, leadership team and school improvement team for their efforts to get ready for the coming year.
"We're just looking forward to a great 2017-2018 school year," he said.
Teachers moved about the building Wednesday, preparing their classrooms and attending meetings.
Prosceno and two of her first-year colleagues, Samantha Mahon and Nick McKinley, shared their experiences as they prepared their classrooms.
Prosceno, 50, came to Harford County because her husband was assigned to Aberdeen Proving Ground. He is a Department of Defense civilian employee, she said.
Prosceno herself is an Air Force veteran who served during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 — she was a medical administrative specialist, and worked in a hospital built by the Air Force in England to treat injured service members sent back from the Middle East.
She left the Air Force in 1992, home-schooled her three children for seven years and began teaching in 2000.
She has taught in Florida, Kansas, Virginia, Hawaii and South Korea as she followed her husband of 31 years to assignments around the world.
Prosceno said she became a special education teacher to help her middle son, whom she said was a gifted student but also struggled with a learning disability.
"I want parents to be able to advocate for their children so their needs are met," she said. "Until the child can take over that ownership, the parent needs to do that."
Prosceno will teach algebra I and geometry — she will "co-teach" by working with general education math teachers to support students with special needs in their classes.
"It is our class, it is our students and I just have to embrace that, and we have to realize that all students will benefit because they have the best of both worlds," Prosceno said.
From Brooklyn to Harford
Samantha Mahon, 28, is starting her seventh year of teaching. She came to Edgewood from Brooklyn, N.Y., where she taught middle and high school for six years.
Mahon will teach math. She said the Harford County school system provides much more support and resources for new teachers compared to the New York City schools.
"Your hand is held throughout the entire process," she said.
"I feel like they know, the best way to take care of the kids is to take care of the teachers," her colleague, Nick McKinley, added.
Mahon said her mother is an elementary school teacher, which was an inspiration for her to enter the profession.
"I've always had a passion for math, and then I wanted to become a teacher because I wanted to make a difference," Mahon said.
She wants to assure her students, "if no one else in their lives cared about them, I wanted them to know that their teacher did."
Mahon will also experience Harford County Public Schools as a parent — her 4-year-old son is scheduled to start pre-kindergarten this year.
She and her husband and two boys, ages 4 and 2, live in Darlington. Mahon noted the difference between New York and rural Harford County.
"We can sit on the bench and it's just the two of them running around the park by themselves," she said of her children. "The area is safer; it's really a perfect place to grow a family."
Inspire love of physics
McKinley, 23, is starting his first year of teaching. The Columbus, Ohio, native graduated from Towson University in May with a bachelor's degree in physics and a concentration in education. He lives in Parkville.
He completed his student teaching at Edgewood High. He will teach physics, integrated chemistry and, physics and geometry this year.
McKinley wants his students to enjoy physics, which he noted is normally a difficult subject, but that could change with the right teacher.
"I look at physics as, why are things around us happening the way they are?" he said.
McKinley noted "you get to play with really cool toys." He said students work with different types of equipment, and they can build items such as electric circuits.
"It's so hands-on, and it's so real life that you can't get away from it," he said of physics.
McKinley said he was inspired to become a teacher in high school, when he helped his chemistry teacher and tutored his classmates. He said his classmates encouraged him to become a teacher, because he did a good job of explaining subjects to them.
McKinley was educated through the UTeach program at Towson, a national program designed to train educators in teaching STEM subjects — science, engineering, technology and mathematics.
Towson’s UTeach program offers concentrations in math and science, and students can obtain a bachelor’s degree and complete the courses needed for a teaching certification in Maryland, according to the program's web page.
Students also get experience in the classroom early on; McKinley recalled working in a fifth-grade classroom his freshman year.
"Getting in front of the kids and having that instruction, it just reinforces what you want to do," he said.