Stasia Bannister navigated her way through the state Department of Education's Web site, her eyes lighting up when she hit the page for a game called "Math Baseball."
"My boys would learn so much from this," she said.
Every two weeks, the 21-year-old teacher, fresh out of college, sits through an evening of workshops that offer Calvert County's beginning teachers tips on such topics as surfing the Internet, managing a classroom and handling parent-teacher conferences. In addition to that, each Friday she has an in-service training session.
Calvert County hired 100 teachers this school year, many of them entering the classroom for the first time. Rather than leave the newcomers to fend for themselves, the county is trying to offer them more support, partly to train them and partly to stave off frustrations that might prompt them to leave the profession.
School districts throughout the nation are facing the same challenge of keeping new teachers prepared and satisfied. Increasingly, school districts everywhere are expanding training programs and asking experienced teachers to serve as mentors for newcomers like Bannister.
"I'm a first-year teacher and I need all the experience and help I can get," Bannister said this week after her first month of teaching a fifth-grade class at Mount Harmony Elementary School.
She participated in a workshop on teaching math Tuesday. The roomful of teachers new to Calvert listened to advice on strategies for making math instruction interactive and interesting.
"Research says we typically teach the way we were taught, even if we didn't like it," said Jackie Herath, supervisor of elementary mathematics instruction. "We're trying to get you to look beyond that."
Instead of using pencil and paper, Herath said, teachers can use dice or dollar bills to demonstrate mathematical concepts. "Your imagination can go wild," she said.
Later during the workshop, teachers hit the computer lab, where they surfed the Internet for the latest in teaching strategies and theory. "It can be overwhelming," Bannister said. "You basically have to pick your own theories. . . . Each one of the kids learns differently."
Bannister went for a more practical link on the Department of Education's Web site, clicking her mouse first on "Clever Games for Clever People" and then on "The Cash Register Game," both math games. "My kids need all the help they can get with multiplication," she said.