Charles School System Welcomes More than 160 New Teachers at Orientation

LA PLATA, Md. (August 26, 2010)—Tim LaBelle took center stage in his new classroom Aug. 16, two weeks before his theater students will begin filling the North Point High School auditorium. He wasn’t the teacher yet, but still playing the part of a student learning a final lesson from one of Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) top teachers.

One of 164 new CCPS teachers, LaBelle was helping Charles County’s Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher, Jill Jowdy, demonstrate the power of words and the importance of how teachers use them. With outstretched arms, LaBelle stood fast as Jowdy tried to bend his arms. But when she asked him if he thought his dress was appropriate for the occasion, he immediately lost confidence and the ability to hold his arms up. How you say something to a student, Jowdy said, makes all the difference.

Charles County Public Schools kicked off the new school year with a back-to-school leadership conference for principals and vice principals the second week of August and new teachers arrived Aug. 16 for orientation. Returning teachers started Aug. 24 and the school year officially starts Aug. 30 when students again fill the classrooms.

Charles County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, Mark Howell, called elementary teachers, especially those teaching kindergarten and first graders to read, the backbone of any school system, and outlined his 31-year career that started in elementary school, continued in middle school and led to his last 17 years as a social studies teacher at Westlake High School. He left teachers with five points: be a professional; be a planner; be positive; be proactive and be patient. “You are going to learn a lot this year, and some of what you learn will be from your students.”

At the new teacher orientation, there were 21 elementary, 38 middle school, 51 high school, 45 special education and five resource teachers as well as four school counselors. The school system also hired six speech pathologists and occupational therapists, for a total of 170 new hires. As of last week, there were still four middle school vacancies and six special education openings.

Following a morning of fine arts performances by students, new teachers attended benefits sessions and equity training. It wasn’t just administrators that shared messages with new teachers. North Point student Gaston Lopez told teachers they have the potential to enrich the lives of their students. Teachers, he said, need to make a connection between their students’ lives and what they are learning.

Superintendent James E. Richmond urged new teachers to ask for help. “Ask… ask those who have experience. Lean on us,” he said. He also reminded teachers that reading and reading comprehension are essential for students to learn and technology is a strong tool, but it does not replace a good teacher. “I’ve never seen any resource that is better than a good teacher,” he concluded.

Board of Education chairman Roberta S. Wise addressed the group and advised the teachers to enjoy their experiences and remember the impact they will have on their students. “Forty-five years ago, I was where you are today – scared to death. But I fell in love with the classroom... There is nothing more invigorating and I loved every moment,” she said.

Source: Charles County Public Schools (CCPS)

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