Al Eisel likes to tell the story of the teacher who was so nervous about her first day on the job that she wrote out everything she would say, word for word, including the "Good morning, children." She recited page after page off her yellow pad, and when she finished, she looked at the clock.
It was 10:15.
Eisel, who heads up a program designed to ease those first-day nerves for Montgomery County's new teachers, works year-round to make sure "no one goes in cold."
Before each new recruit starts arranging the desks, devising the lesson plans or decorating the bulletin boards, Eisel has matched the novice with a veteran teacher. In the weeks before the school system's official Sept. 4 start, teachers new to Montgomery will meet with an instructor who has at least two years of county experience to exchange ideas on everything from how to cover the science unit on weather to deciding how children will be given permission to go to the bathroom.
"That first year is the toughest," Eisel said. "We know that if they can get through that -- and they'll need a little help doing it -- they can get through anything."
Angela Maki, who was hired two weeks ago to teach fourth- and fifth-graders at Fields Road Elementary School in Gaithersburg, said being matched with veteran teacher Mary Jean Williams is making her adjustment easier. As a "teacher consultant," Williams is helping Maki and three other new teachers set up their classrooms, develop ideas for creative writing assignments and adjust to life in one of the nation's 20 largest school systems. Throughout the year, the 90 consultants will meet for at least two hours each month with their groups to discuss problems and successes.
The consultants are paid $40 an hour, while the new teachers receive $8.33 for each hour they participate.
"It's such a good opportunity to meet someone who wants to help," Maki said. "It absolutely builds your confidence and confirms whether you're on the right track."
Before starting her job at Rockville's College Gardens Elementary School four years ago, Williams was part of the first class of new teachers to come through the teacher consultant program.
Now, in her first year as a consultant, Williams said, "I'm getting so much out of it. I enjoy giving them what I know, but the new teachers can give me so many ideas I can use and would never have thought of."
The unusual teacher consultant program is one way Montgomery County is dealing with the explosive hiring increases accompanying the surge in student enrollment. This year, as the school system prepares for more than 102,600 students -- topping last year's figure by more than 2,000 -- a very different teacher work force is being established. While last-minute hiring continues, school officials say that 75 of the 205 teachers currently signed up, or nearly 37 percent, are members of minority groups.
As the school year gets underway, and actual enrollment figures become clear, those in charge of staffing predict 357 new teachers will be hired, increasing the number of teachers countywide to as many as 7,400. Last year, when 477 new teachers came into the system, the work force totaled about 7,200. Montgomery officials predict that they will replace 75 percent of the current faculty in 10 years.
School officials are quick to contrast the minority hiring to last year's efforts in which 12 percent of the new teachers were members of minority groups. They also note that Montgomery has so far surpassed its minority hiring goal for this year by nearly 20 percent.
"We are finally seeing the fruits of our recruiting process," said school spokesman Brian Porter.
Shortcomings in the recruitment of minorities have, for some time, been a troublesome matter for the county. But Montgomery officials believe they are now succeeding in getting the work force to better reflect a student population that includes more minorities. Last year, nearly 17 percent of the students were black, 11.5 percent were Asians and more than 8 percent were Hispanic. Last year there were 7,187 teachers, and 935, or 13 percent, were minorities.
Porter said the sudden jump in the number of minorities hired comes after Montgomery's recruiters have followed many minority students through their college years and signed them to contracts upon graduation. Also, he said, Montgomery's minimum starting salary of $26,945, among the highest in the region, is an attraction.
He said Montgomery's recent difficulties in luring minority teachers -- especially blacks -- to the system is due, in large part, to the very competitive nature of recruiting among a shrinking pool of minorities seeking teaching careers.
Nationally, during the last five years, the number of minority college students enrolled in teacher training programs has declined from 11.5 percent to 5.7 percent, said A. "Skipp" Sanders, Maryland's assistant state superintendent for teacher certification. That situation, he said, is also occurring in Maryland, as students believe other professions would prove more lucrative.
Along with the growth in teacher hiring and student enrollment, Montgomery's ambitious school construction program continues. Four new elementary school buildings are opening in the central and upper reaches of the county, where young families have found some of the most affordable housing. Those new schools are Brooke Grove Elementary School in Olney; Sequoyah Elementary School in Derwood; Gaithersburg's Rachel Carson Elementary School, named for the renowned environmentalist; and Germantown's Ronald McNair Elementary School, the second county school -- along with S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary -- to be named for a fallen member of the Challenger shuttle team.
Two schools in Silver Spring are reopening: Burnt Mills Elementary School and Francis Scott Key Middle School, which this year will hold the unusual distinction of housing two separate schools under its roof. Because construction at Briggs Chaney Middle School will not be completed until the fall of 1991, those students will attend classes at Francis Scott Key.