<bt>Like many college graduates entering their first year of work, Marian Marsh was excited, nervous, overwhelmed and enthusiastic all at once. In a year when many struggle to merely stay afloat, the sixth grade teacher at Little Run Elementary was rewarded with this year's Outstanding First-Year Teacher Award for Fairfax County Public Schools.
"I was so happy," said Marsh. "'I said to my principal 'am I dreaming or what?."
A native of northeastern Pennsylvania and a graduate of Penn State University, Marsh had wanted to be a teacher since she was a student herself. She was inspired by the excellent teachers she encountered throughout her education and was spurred on by her love of books and learning. While Marsh was extremely honored to win the award, she is motivated by the desire to help others.
Marsh said that her main goal in teaching is "to strive to meet each child's needs. I want every child to feel that they are successful. If I've done that, than I feel like I've done my job."
Despite having 33 students in her classroom, Marsh structured her lesson plan around the idea that students need individual attention. To accomplish this, she created learning centers, in which groups of five to six students completed activities ranging from reading groups to student-led discussions. Children work either individually, in groups or directly with Marsh as they move around the different centers.
TECHNOLOGY also played a role in Marsh's classroom. "We use technology all the time," said Marsh. "We have 15 laptops and we use graphs, spreadsheets, Excel and Powerpoint. There is a computer lab with 32 computers and 5 classroom computers."
"She has a facility with technology," said Little Run Principal Judith Johnson, who nominated Marsh for the award. "Marian uses computers to get kids excited about learning."
Marsh worked with Fairfax County during the summer, studying the FCPS Program of Studies, the Virginia Standards of Learning, and other support materials. She also was a part of "Great Beginnings." In this program, first-year teachers from schools in the same area meet to share ideas and discuss lesson plans. Marsh was assigned two mentors through this program, Deborah Daley and Marian Martin, both teachers at Little Run.
Martin, the school's other sixth grade teacher, said that although she is Marsh's mentor, their relationship is more of a partnership in which both teachers learn from each other. Martin added that Marsh has many of the qualities that make a great teacher, such as dedication, flexibility and eagerness.
As an example, Martin described a situation that Marsh faced this year, when she received a student who spoke no English and had never been in an American school. Marsh went to Web sites for Spanish translations, made flash cards and modified her lesson plans.
"She worked in ways I haven't seen experienced teachers work," Martin said. "That's a true sign of her dedication."
Little Run's principal also commented on Marsh's hard work and determination. "She is an exceptional person," said Johnson. "She had 33 students this year but decided to go about teaching them in the best way she could. The numbers wouldn't intimidate her. She decided she would do her very best. She teaches students what they need to know in an engaging way."
Johnson went on to say that Marsh "has energy, a love of children and an ability to relate to them, and a sense of humor. She is approachable and she communicates with students and parents. Marian has extraordinary dedication. ... We are lucky to have her here."