New Teachers Hear Inspirational Talk, Get New Computers

BERLIN – While newly-minted teachers beginning their careers in Worcester County just want to make sure their classrooms are ready for the start of school on Tuesday, Maryland’s Teacher of the Year 2007 is taking on the U. S. Congress.

Michelle Hammond, a language arts teacher at Stephen Decatur Middle School, and her fellow state Teachers of the Year from across the country have chosen to take on the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act by supporting legislation requiring an advisory panel of teachers on the reauthorization of NCLB.

The Teachers of the Year, said Hammond, met with every legislator in the U. S. Congress to lobby for the Teachers at the Table Act.

“Apparently there were no teachers at the table the first time,” Hammond said at the Worcester County schools teacher kick-off meeting this week at Stephen Decatur Middle School.

Hammond described a revelation she had while waiting to meet President Bush this spring during her speech at the meeting, saying that she realized Bush was not the first person to think of leaving no child behind. Teachers came up with that idea, she said.

 “As important as the president of the United States appears to be, he works for me,” Hammond said she realized. “Teachers are powerful like the president. We do the most important work in the world.”

Students today need to be prepared for jobs that do not yet exist, Hammond said, and need to be taught more than school subjects.

“Teaching students to read and do math is not enough. Students in the future will need to create, manipulate and innovate,” Hammond said. “We need to find a way to teach 21st Century skills in meaningful ways.”

After the meeting, 45 new teachers received brand new Dell laptop computers, which will be theirs to keep after two years’ work in the school system. The bonus computers cost $1,178 each.

New French teacher Emily Bullock, who will begin her first year teaching high school at Stephen Decatur High this year, said she had not known of the laptop give away until she accepted the job offer, but was excited about the bonus.

The computer played no part in the Landenburg, Pa. native’s decision to come to Worcester County, but the school system did.

“They’re growing their foreign language program, especially in French. Usually, [schools] are cutting instead of adding,” Bullock said.

Brian Phillips, a first year Spanish teacher at Stephen Decatur High School, also said the laptop did not influence his decision to teach in Worcester County.

“It’s hard to stay here,” Phillips said. “It’s my home and I wanted to live locally.”