Mary Boegner's voice is as soft at 3:40 p.m. as at 9 a.m. Her step is as steady and unhurried. Her smile as ready.
The patience with which she helps her 4- and 5-year-olds find the right bus home is the same with which she handled Zach's lost-lunch-and-book-bag episode, the same patience with which she resolved a cafeteria controversy at noon and waited for the youngsters to figure out what month comes after September.
Patience is one reason Mary Boegner, 11-year kindergarten teacher at Shady Spring Elementary School in Rosedale, is Baltimore County's teacher of the year.
However, there are other reasons.
This is the woman who has organized a schoolwide campaign to get President Clinton to visit, and remains undaunted by two years of White House slights.
If the president doesn't drop in this year, she said, "We'll acknowledge it was just a dream."
This is the woman who volunteered to speak for the Sandy Spring staff when former school Superintendent Stuart Berger came to visit.
And when she didn't get a chance to talk to him, this is the woman who made a 15-minute tape about her school -- "I figured a kindergarten teacher would get about 15 minutes of his time" -- and sent it to Dr. Berger, who responded by inviting her in for a conference.
This is the woman who says "early childhood education is so different in today's society," sees first-hand the effects of inadequate and inappropriate day care, and acknowledges equally the benefits of quality day care -- the kind she's been lucky enough to have for her two sons.
But most of all, this is a woman who loves to teach.
"It's never boring. There's always something that needs to be done. This definitely is for the young at heart. They don't wait," she says of her students -- 26 this year in full-day kindergarten.
Mrs. Boegner, nominated by the mother of a student who moved in and out of Shady Spring in less than a school year, will be honored along with teachers-of-the-year from Baltimore City and counties Friday at the annual Maryland Teacher of the Year dinner at Martin's West. Garrett County was the only jurisdiction not to choose a candidate.
Mrs. Boegner is not among the seven statewide finalists, but that does not diminish her honor.
The nomination came from "a strictly professional relationship with a parent of a challenging student," she said.
L "That's very exciting," she said. "I was totally surprised."
Chosen last spring, Mrs. Boegner was considering leaving Shady Spring for a position at a county school much closer to her home in northern Baltimore County.
"But I decided to stay. I didn't want to give the recognition to another school," said Mrs. Boegner, 44. "But I'm going to be here a while. This is where I'm supposed to be."
Because of the many apartments within Shady Spring's boundaries, the school's enrollment is fairly transient, said Principal Gary Hilleary.
"We have a solid core population that stays year after year," Mr. Hilleary said. "But we have a lot of young parents who move into the area" -- and quickly out again.
Mrs. Boegner speaks highly of "the great parents here" and the strong cooperation she usually receives from them.
She is equally appreciative of "a supportive administration" that tolerates her frankness.
"I am a risk-taker for kids," he said. "I don't always go along with my administration."
For instance, when she thought the school needed a social worker because of recurring discipline problems, she took it up with Dr. Berger -- in her post-tape conference -- much to the chagrin, she said, of her principal.
However, the school was one of the first to hire a social worker.
"I can make a difference here," she said.
"Mary's nomination has brought a renewed sense of pride for all the teachers in the building," Mr. Hilleary said. "Mary is an outstanding teacher a very fine staff member. Her knowledge of early childhood is amazing."
Her bustling classroom belies the structure Mrs. Boegner relies on to teach and socialize her students.
Even the most mature kindergartners can sit still for only a few minutes, so the focus changes often -- from traditional lessons to hands-on projects to independent activities.
Because Mrs. Boegner has a classroom aide, she can plan simultaneous activities and also have time for the one-on-one instruction she considers necessary because of the varied development and skills among her students.
Of her 26 kindergartners, 11 were still 4 years old when school started, but some were almost 6.
While the others paint, draw and build, Jesse Childress, 4, sits beside Mrs. Boegner as she encourages him to print his name.
Patiently, she watches as he grips a crayon and forms the letters. "You couldn't do that last week," she tells him proudly when he's finished.
Mrs. Boegner is rich in praise of her youngsters and quiet in criticism. "I don't scream. I don't yell. I'll say, 'I'm upset, honey, you better sit down.' "