Dana Lees said she was terrified of camera equipment until Eileen Freiman, who teaches English and speech at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, gently urged her to direct a television commercial being filmed as a class assignment.
"I loved it," confessed Lees, 17. "I've decided to go into radio and television."
Another 17-year-old student's voice was barely a whisper when she gave her first oral presentation in front of Freiman's fourth-period speech class.
Freiman asked the girl to practice projecting her voice every morning in the shower. Midway through the semester, the girl suddenly projected her voice while delivering a speech.
"It was a miracle," Freiman recalled. "The class gave her a standing ovation."
Freiman's warm, personal teaching style has won her many fans at the 1,600-student high school in the last 5 1/2 years and has been the spark for an outpouring of student support over her involuntary transfer to another school in the fall.
The transfer of this popular teacher and dozens of others at other Montgomery County high schools is inevitable next school year as the school system copes with declining enrollments at the secondary level and a lean school budget imposed by the County Council.
School officials predict there will be 28,043 secondary school students next year, or 1,255 fewer than this year. Unlike elementary enrollments, which are on the rise nationally and locally, the number of Montgomery high school students began falling in the early 1980s and is expected to bottom out in 1990 at 27,500 students.
Because of the fewer high school students next year and the reductions made last month in the school budget, 107 senior high school teaching positions have been cut, sparking controversy among parents and students and creating uncertainty for teachers and administrators. It is the largest reduction in the Montgomery high school teaching force since 1981.
Also, for the first time in about a dozen years, the school system has laid off 16 teachers in areas that are not in demand, such as industrial arts, business education, French and home economics.
The teachers may be hired back if they are needed once school starts, school officials said.
"In the past, we've always been able to find enough teaching slots so that we can move people around . . . and there's been no threat of putting them out on the street," said Ken Muir, director of long-range planning for the school system. "But this year that's a possibility."
Churchill High School Principal Patricia Sweeney said the involuntary transfers are "horrible" because the teachers there are "a very cohesive group . . . and nobody wants to lose any of them."
She said she relied on seniority, racial and ethnic considerations, and a teacher's extracurricular activities in deciding which teachers would be transferred.
"In going through the process of selecting . . . we are losing good teachers," Sweeney added.
Larry Bowers, administrative assistant to incoming superintendent Harry Pitt, said five high schools -- Churchill, Rockville, Kennedy, Gaithersburg and Walt Whitman -- with falling enrollments have each placed between 9 and 12 teachers on the involuntary transfers list.
This means the teachers will be reassigned to other schools in the fall, probably middle schools or even elementary schools.
Most of the other 15 county high schools will lose between four and eight teachers next year, with the exception of Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, which will add a few teachers because of its consolidation with closed Charles W. Woodward High in Rockville, Bowers said.
In most cases, the transferred teachers are the ones with the least seniority.
Bowers said some of the transferred high school teachers will be sent to elementary schools where they can be involved in team teaching in such areas as math and English in the upper grades.
"The other possibility if we don't have positions for these people is to create some permanent substitute positions for them," Bowers said.
While the transferred teachers are pleased to keep a job, Freiman said it is painful for her to leave Churchill, where she developed a popular speech program that enrolled about 60 students this year.
Ninety-five students are already signed up for her course next year, but instead they will be offered two speech classes taught by English teachers.
Freiman's speech course combines oral presentations, speeches and debates as well as simulated job interviews and videotaped college interviews to give the students self-confidence and a feel for the real world, she said.
"I feel this is my program," said Freiman, who has appealed the transfer decision to the area office.
"It's my reputation that's built it. I can't do it anywhere else. My life right now is in terrible disarray. I don't know where I'll go or when I'll know."
Freiman, 45, a lively woman, calls the speech classes her "family" and refers to her students as "jewels." Her approach to teaching is to offer each student encouragement and positive comments and then point out what areas need improvement.
"That makes it safe," she said. "I try to treat them all as if they all have something to say."
The students have responded in kind. When they learned of Freiman's impending transfer several weeks ago, they immediately began circulating a petition to keep her at the school. Some students sent her a bunch of balloons with a card. Several students cried. One student wrote "Keep Freiman" on the blackboard.
"She's not just another teacher," said Michelle Levin, 17, a senior. "She's a friend. She's someone you can talk to."
As part of her final examination, senior Kim Kaplan wrote a poem about Freiman and read it to the class.
"We will all miss you, Miss Freiman," Kaplan said. "Because you say, 'The show must go on' and you are the show."