Montgomery County Public School teachers make pretty good students themselves.
In fact, so many of the teachers were eager to take on the role of student when Hewlett-Packard Co. offered them an introductory computer course, the company decided to present the seven-week course again. The next session began last week, to accommodate those teachers who could not get into the first session.
The course is a community service project set up by Hewlett-Packard to expose business teachers in the county to the world of bits and bytes. The company was able to offer the program free of charge to teachers by using different company volunteers each week as course instructors at its Rockville sales office.
The first two sessions this month and last are aimed at business teachers because business departments will be the first departments in county schools to get computers, said Hewlett-Packard field marketing associate Larry Grimes, who was instrumental in organizing the program. He developed it along with James Toquinto, coordinator of business education for Montgomery County Public Schools.
The county school board has allotted $750,000 to outfit eight schools with microcomputers by next year. The following year, the county plans to equip the remaining schools with computers, according to Toquinto.
Toquinto said business departments will use the machines to teach word processing, accounting and data processing. When he announced Hewlett-Packard's course to the schools in the county, he said, 46 teachers showed an interest, but the company could only accommodate half of them during the first session.
David Trout, a systems engineer who taught the final lesson of the first session April 26, said the course is mostly for the personal and professional development of the teachers. "These days, the more you know about computers, the better off you are," he said.
At 32, Trout is younger than most of the students he taught, but said, "I'm used to that. It doesn't bother me." He praised the interest shown by the schoolteachers.
A computer is good for repetitive training, Trout said. "The computer has infinite patience, but it will never replace teachers," he assured his class.
The level of knowledge about computers varied among the schoolteachers. Larry Kelly, who teaches at Springbrook High School, has had previous exposure to the machines, and said this course provided a "good overview of computers." He said, "It's very nice for companies like Hewlett-Packard to extend themselves." Another teacher, Carolyn Darne, praised the lack of pressure by company representatives.