There's a folksy jingle, some guitar and piano music in the background, a montage of film clips showing darling toddlers raising their hands in a classroom, and finally a sedate voice saying: "A teacher may be one of the best friends your child ever had."

It is the Maryland State Teachers Association's first entry into the world of television advertising, the debut of a $38,000 media campaign to show the public an image of teachers who "still care about children."

The campaign was timed to begin yesterday, on the first day of school in Maryland and Virginia, with radio spots and the TV commercial, which was scheduled to be shown during the 11 o'clock news on WJHA-TV.

Since the association members feel that teachers are fast becoming what one association official called the "whipping persons of society," the teachers' organization had decided that a media blitz was needed to give the public "an appreciation of what teachers are trying to do."

"And let me debunk one myth," said Robert Dexter, assistant executive director of the association. "Somebody is going to say this is a slick Madison Avenue campaign. It isn't. The committee [that put the campaign together] is made up of teachers."

Committee Chairman George Kaye, a teacher at Georgian Forest Elementary School in Silver Spring, said he put forth the idea of an advertising campaign on behalf of teachers last year after hearing some teachers say "they'd gotten a bum rap from parents who said they only worked nine months a year, or went home at 3 o'clock everyday.

"What parents forget is that teachers educating them go them where they are . . . and we'll do the same thing for their children," Kaye added.

So in the next few weeks area residents will start seeing black-and-white billboards displaying the slogan: "If you can read this, thank your teacher." Bumper stickers bearing the same slogan will start appearing.

Radio advertisements will be heard during the next four weeks on in stations in Maryland and five in the Washington area. All will feature the campaign's theme song. "We Teach the Children."

The filmed commercial will run twice on Washington-area television, at about $2,000 a shot, and viewers will hear a voice singing: "There's a time in everyone's life when they need someone who cares/Someone to guide them, and to help them prepare for the world out there."

Meanwhile, they'll see pictures flash by of kindergarten pupils, marching band members in plumed hats, high school students and one white-haired, bespectacled woman by a blackboard who looks like everyone's idea of a primary school teacher.

The teachers and students in the commercial, however, are not from Maryland. They are from Illinois. It was an official of that state's education association who wrote the song, with the help of a professional lyricist, and produced the TV commercials.

Maryland teachers are not the first to turn to television and other media for paid advertising campaigns.

While the film was shot in Illinois for a public service campaign of the state education organization, it was also used by the teachers' association in Rockford, Ill., for a TV ad campaign.

The New Jersey Education Association for the past three years has run media campaigns, and this year will spend about $260,000 on an effort to "cement the ties" between parents and teachers.

This same theme is also one thrust of the Maryland campaign, according to association officials Dexter. "I don't think we are trying to sell our public image, so much as renew our partnership with parents," Dexter said.

Most of the Maryland officials shied away from questions about precisely what the image of Maryland's teachers is today.

Toby Rich, president of the Prince George's County Educators' Association, said, "the image is satisfactory." Then he added, "Lots of people are in the dark and don't know what the image is."