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New teachers swarmed the Dr. James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center this week for a multi-day orientation program to help introduce the newcomers to both lessons and the culture of St. Mary’s public schools.

The 99 new teachers hired since Oct. 15 of last year is about twice the number of new hires the previous year, Dale Farrell, coordinating supervisor of human resources, said. They will join more than 1,100 other teachers, counselors and other educators next Wednesday for the first day of school in St. Mary’s County.

Nine of the 99 new teachers are minorities, Farrell said. About one in four are male teachers.

The new crop of teachers have an average of about four years of teaching experience.

Forty-three of the teachers are “brand new,” he said, and will be starting their first year as full-time educators in St. Mary’s public schools next week.

Sarah Boudart said she could not wait for her first day as a teacher at a White Marsh Elementary School third-grade classroom. “I feel more excited” than anything else, she said.

The University of Delaware graduate said thanks to some of her family here in St. Mary’s she was able to find an apartment. She applied to work in the county’s public school system based on its good reputation, she said.

Fewer than half of the new teachers are graduates of Maryland colleges or universities. Others hail from as far away as California, Alaska, Florida and Japan.

Rheamia Burns is a new teacher here, technically, despite working at Esperanza Middle School 17 years ago. She is Leonardtown Middle School’s newest seventh-grade language arts teacher this year, after bouncing around the world with her naval officer husband.

Burns’ family most recently was stationed in Japan (along with two other new teachers to St. Mary’s this year), where she worked for the Department of Defense as a school liaison officer.

“It has grown tremendously,” she said of St. Mary’s County. She hopes to make a lasting career with St. Mary’s public schools, along with her children who are enrolled here.

Nineteen of the new teachers graduated from high schools in St. Mary’s County.

Jason Kramer, a new special education teacher at Esperanza Middle School, said he was excited, but nervous, to expand his career from working as a paraeducator to becoming a full-fledged teacher.

“It’s more challenging, but I think it’s more rewarding,” he said of special education and the small breakthroughs that mean so much to students in his field.

The 2004 Chopticon High School graduate said he is following in the steps of his father, Dane Kramer, who taught in the public school system here and now works at a local Catholic school.

“In order to teach a child well, you want to know a child well,” and that trust must be built on positive relationships, Superintendent Michael Martirano said during a welcome event kicking off the three days of orientation.

However, he warned, do not interact with students on social media sites such as Facebook.

“Kids don’t need any more friends. What they need are great teachers,” the superintendent said, adding that some teachers have made that mistake in the past. “If you have Facebook, clean that up.”

Martirano swore in the “new bona-fide teachers” by having them repeat an oath based on the county’s mission statement and vision.

Teachers were treated to a meet-and-greet and dinner (complete with steamed crabs) at the Leonardtown Wharf on Monday.

The orientation also included a fashion show presented by the Education Association of St. Mary’s County on the do’s and don’ts of teacher attire Tuesday and a day spent with “model demonstration teachers,” veteran educators who helped explain the ins and outs of instructional priorities and to develop a plan for the first three weeks of school for the new teachers.

Board president Sal Raspa recalled 52 years ago when he began teaching.

“There were nine of us that year” in the teacher orientation, he said. “I was green behind the ears.”

He told the teachers to become involved in the community and in helping to make community decisions.

Commissioner President Jack Russell (D) urged the new teachers to not check their personalities at their classroom doors. “Just be yourselves,” he said.

And, pulling on his old fishing analogy, Russell said to the new teachers, “You have to keep changing the bait until you get them on the hook.”

The average starting salary for the new batch of teachers is $48,473, based on years of experience and education level attained.

There are still about a half-dozen vacancies yet to fill this year, Farrell said.

jyeatman@somdnews.com