Youngsters at Ferndale Elementary School greeted a new principal when they reported for their first day of school this week. And apparently they did a pretty nice job of it.
"I walked into the classrooms and they were warm and inviting," said Helen Norris, a teacher and administrator with the school system since 1972.
She replaces Louis Thomas, who retired in June after 36 years in county schools, the last eight as principal at Ferndale.
Ms. Norris was assistant principal at Glendale Elementary School before assuming her new post. Her teaching career, which began in 1972, includes a stint as a special-education teacher.
The Pasadena resident switched to administration to see the long-term benefits students can reap. "I wanted to see how I made a difference in children's growth," she said.
While at Glendale, Ms. Norris developed a social language program that taught kindergartners through fifth-graders how to speak and handle themselves in social situations.
The youngsters were taught how to use eye contact and tone of voice in different situations. They learned how to solve disputes by talking, instead of by punching, Ms. Norris said.
The week before school started at Ferndale, she started meeting with staff and parents to see what goals they might like to aim for this year. Increasing student achievement on the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program test and strengthening the community's understanding of the school's objectives are priority items, she said.
Being able to go into a classroom and work directly with the students is one advantage of working at a small community school like Ferndale, which has 160 students, she said.
Ms. Norris said she enjoyed helping a sixth-grade class practice designing time lines in preparation for a study of ancient civilizations.
The students used events from their lives to fill in their time lines. At first, their thoughts were very literal, such as "I was born," and "I had my first birthday," Ms. Norris said.
But soon the youngsters began using their creativity to describe some of the more important, but less obvious, events in their lives. The students put those events on the time line.