A New Pathway to Teaching: An Education Diversity Experience Taking Shape in Maryland Schools

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Frostburg State University alumna Brianna Hopkins teaches math at Gwynns Falls Elementary School in Baltimore. Photo courtesy of Coppin State University

Sometimes you have to let programs simmer for awhile until they’re ready. I’ve been waiting for this day to come for over a year, when Frostburg State University faculty were excited about a new federally grant-funded program. It was promising that they were part of a Coppin State University-led program that just received a $3.6 million infusion from the U.S. Department of Education.

Today we’re at the point we’re ready to share and demonstrate the promise of the program with a success story and the launch of the first phase of the program. We packaged this feature I wrote with the press release we distributed with Coppin to show two sides of the program: the nuts and bolts and then the human interest story.

Like the program itself, the communication of Pathways to Professions (P2P) is a joint venture with FSU and CSU’s media relations offices working as one.

The human interest story also includes key information about P2P so readers can grasp this mammoth undertaking. Expect to hear more about P2P over the next five years and beyond. The hope is that this a model for other universities and K-12 school districts.

By Charles Schelle

When Brianna Hopkins needed a student to behave, she thought staring down the student with a stern look might do the trick.

In Baltimore’s Gwynns Falls Elementary School, it worked flawlessly. At Mount Savage Elementary School, located in a small Allegany County town, the student giggled. Lesson learned for Hopkins.

“It was funny because she said ‘Miss Hopkins, why are you looking at me like that? Is there something in your eye?’” said Hopkins, a 2017 graduate of Frostburg State University. “I thought that it was funny because it was such a culture difference.”

That’s the point of a new U.S. Department of Education grant-funded program implemented through Coppin State University and Frostburg State University: to allow teacher candidates be prepared for anything in any classroom. It’s called Pathways 2 Professions and has officially launched this fall.

Maryland is in many ways a miniature America with snowy mountains in the west transitioning to farmland and urban cities and then to sandy beaches along the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. The population is as diverse across the state as the geography, and if teacher candidates can figure out how to scale unfamiliar terrain in two starkly different Maryland classrooms, they can teach anywhere in the country.

To make this program possible, Coppin State and Frostburg State — both part of the University System of Maryland—collaborated to redesign curriculum to improve teacher effectiveness and student success. Their efforts resulted in a proposal where Coppin State was awarded a five-year, $3.6 million Teacher Quality Partnership Grant to develop the Frostburg State partnership.

Dr. Yi Huang, associate dean/associate professor of CSU College of Arts & Sciences and Education is the author and principal investigator of the grant. Dr. Kim Rotruck, acting associate dean of FSU’s College of Education, is the co-principal investigator. Both are joined by several other faculty members from both institutions as well as partners with various agencies to design the program.

“Teachers are the single most important factor in terms of impacting if a student can learn and improve or not,” Huang said. “By improving teacher effectiveness, you have a much greater chance to improve student learning. That was the ultimate goal. We have a greater goal of inclusive excellence.”

The challenge was worth pursuing for faculty at Coppin and Frostburg to take prospective teachers out of their comfort zones to expand their skillset by managing classrooms in a different part of the state, Rotruck said.

“FSU instructors believe their students need every opportunity to meet the challenges of today’s classroom. We want to provide as many opportunities for their success,” Rotruck said. “This Coppin partnership has definitely changed their perspective and allowed them to grow as teachers.”

 

 

How Pathways 2 Professions Works

 

To understand how teacher candidates can work outside of a system, it’s important to know how they work within a system to become a teacher.

Maryland has a Professional Development School Network that identifies at which K-12 schools teacher-candidates can complete their required 100-day internships. Those schools are affiliated with a higher education institution within their region.

FSU, for instance, has partner schools in Allegany County, Washington County, western Frederick County and eastern Garrett County. CSU’s network extends to a several Baltimore city schools in a one-to-three-mile radius of the campus.

CSU and FSU, both with nationally accredited teaching programs, ensure that the schools and teachers they work with in these K-12 PDSN sites are meeting standards to teach future teachers. Also, it helps that the schools are in a defined area to prevent, for example, a Garrett County teacher having to drive to Ocean City for a required site visit.

The multi-layered P2P program provides an additional opportunity to the 100-day internship to practice teaching to a different demographic in a contrasting geographical setting in Maryland by establishing support at each university and PDSN sites. The Coppin-Frostburg partnership works because it’s a defined set of schools, along with college faculty familiar with each other who worked together to define standards and expectations of what this would look like.

These one-week internships take place following the education majors’ six-week internship at their home institution’s professional development schools. Students also complete group site visits to partner schools earlier in the process.

“We tried many different models of people observing and spending time in Baltimore classrooms, but we never found a collaborative model that is so well coordinated to provide these students with experiences beyond observation,” Rotruck said. “Now they are participating in diverse environments.”

These teacher candidates examine their own stereotypes, their background, upbringing and misconceptions about teaching in urban or rural schools and check them at the door.

“Until somebody asks you to do it, you don’t think about how your culture influences your instruction and your decision making,” said FSU Professor of Educational Professions Dr. Janet Mattern, who is the FSU site director for P2P.

Here’s how students unpack how their personality and way of life influences their teaching:

 

  • In the first phase, FSU and CSU education majors will conduct site visits at professional development schools to observe classrooms and gain initial exposure to schools in a different part of the state. The first visits will take place in October.
  • FSU and CSU students collaborate on assignments online through Blackboard and work on developing curriculum together.
  • In the second phase, planned for the spring of 2018, FSU students have a one-week internship, or residential clinical rotation, in an urban professional development school near Coppin. CSU students do the same at a FSU professional development network school. Teacher-candidates must complete P2P competency-based activities in order to be part of this experience. The first clinical rotations are planned for spring 2018.

Students who successfully complete components of the program are awarded P2P MicroCredentials that will appear on their transcripts to show they acquired specialized skills through this unique experience. The pilot implementation of the P2P MicroCredentials in Teaching Effectiveness will begin in fall 2017 at CSU and FSU. Plans are in the works to develop MicroCredentials that teacher candidates could earn during their two-year induction phase, and convert into Continuing Professional Development credits for teacher certification.

 

 

From Big Savage Mountain to Baltimore

 

When students traded places in a pilot clinical round, their perceptions changed.

FSU students learned why Baltimore public schools require uniforms, experienced a city where minorities are the majority, and saw students facing the same issues that students in Western Maryland face. CSU students could see the effects of poverty in some rural communities and the lack of racial diversity in K-12 schools.

“One of the students’ assumption was that African American students would face economic challenges. In rural areas that are predominately white, poverty is still a major aspect that impact a student’s life, emotional development,” Huang said. “That’s one thing that they were able to connect to — that students faced challenges in rural and urban environments.”

The experiences help teacher candidates make adjustments. That could be something as little as enforcing certain classroom rules like raising a hand to ask or answer a question or if certain students are more comfortable with using a tablet instead of pen and paper, Mattern said.

“Until you start unpacking those things, you don’t even realize you do it because it’s just a part of who you are,” Mattern said. “What do you value? What do you believe? The way you were raised influences every interaction you have.”

The program isn’t intended to make teachers feel like they have to have all the answers, said Dr. Boyce Williams, interim dean for FSU’s College of Education.

“You give them the tools they need, not to be able to solve all the problems children come with but to have been exposed to best practices and to know that I need to seek help,” such as from a school nurse or psychologist, Williams said. “I’m expected to teach all students, but I can’t be everything to all. But I certainly ought to know and identify when there is some type of need, an issue or a challenge, and be able to go to the resources for support.”

 

‘They want to be loved’

 

Hopkins, a Baltimore resident, was part of a pilot test of the program before the official launch, teaching at Gwynns Falls Elementary in Baltimore and at Mount Savage Elementary School, outside of Frostburg. She also interned at Route 40 Elementary School in Garrett County, where she opened up the eyes of some rural, white children.

“I had kids who were brushing my skin because they thought my skin was going to feel different because it was brown. I didn’t mind, and I was happy to share with them that we’re all humans,” said Hopkins, who is African American.  “We have different shades of skin but that doesn’t matter. You get hungry, I get hungry. You get thirsty, I get thirsty. If someone says something mean to you, it hurts your feelings. The same with mine. It was nice to have that experience.” 

Hopkins learned how much and how little race is part of the conversation in education. Hopkins grew up in Catonsville and attended a predominately white elementary school. She said she had to adjust to the culture in middle school, which was more of a diverse melting pot, then adjust again at a predominately African American high school in Baltimore city, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Her schooling background taught her a lot, but it’s another aspect to teach students accustomed to certain environments.

The young students Hopkins taught were not fixated on race, she said.
“I realized after this internship that children don’t see color unless you make it a big deal. They just want to be loved, regardless if it’s Allegany County or Baltimore City Public Schools,” Hopkins said. “They just want to learn, and they want to be loved.”

That’s the key: that all children deserve to be taught and to feel validated. And if teacher candidates like Hopkins can recognize that, the program will be a success by improving both teachers and students.

“Brianna will be able to teach anywhere. The idea is that sometimes urban and rural schools are very similar but also very different,” Huang said. “The idea is now they have the advantage over the typical teacher preparation program. They actually have that kind of experience.”

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En Vogue In The Burg

The diverse student population at Frostburg State University is creating some exciting opportunities for students they are bringing here from the city.

Modeling and a general interest in fashion is one of them. It’s an interesting intersection of the country meets the city, with two distinct modeling clubs at FSU. Both clubs are thriving in their own ways and are producing successful alumni. It’s really incredible considering FSU does not have any fashion programs, whether it be design or merchandising.

This story, appearing in the latest edition of Profile, focuses on one alumna, Imena de Barros, who you’ve might have seen in your Sunday paper. Click on the story link for a related sidebar on two other fashionable alumni.

 

IMENA LIKE WOW:
ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF VISUAL COUTURE LIVING HER DREAM LIFE

By Charles Schelle

Every day is a bit of a surprise for Imena de Barros ’12.
At 5 p.m., she has her schedule for the following day in her hand. Is it a shoot for Macy’s? Footwear casting call? A ight to Europe for work? No wonder her Instagram handle is @Imenalikewow.

The easy-going Bobcat is in the Big Apple now, living the not-easy life as a professional model.

But before she started getting calls to model on the department store circuit in ads for Belk, Bon- Ton, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Sears and Target, de Barros earned her busi- ness degree from FSU, a backup plan after she was told in high school that modeling was not in her future. Coming to FSU eased that initial pressure and opened up doors.

“I honestly fell in love with Frostburg the moment I got there,” she said.

A willing learner, she knew what she wanted to get out of her classes.

“I was the person sitting in front of the class, eager to learn and wanting to be there,” she said. “One time a teacher tried to put me in the back, and I was like, ‘Yeah, no.’ I had to talk to him after class. ‘Dude, I’m a nerd! I have to be in the front!’”

That thirst for knowledge prepared her to enter one of the most competitive occupations in the world, where clients have strict needs from their models, including height, weight, hairstyle and smile, to serve their carefully calculated advertising campaigns.

“I try to be as approachable as possible,” she said. “I try to be as open-minded and free- spirited, doing whatever it takes to make the client happy.”

Building Confidence

Before turning pro, de Barros was part of a budding fashion scene at FSU. at scene has since taken hold, and

the campus now has two active and distinct student organizations focused on fashion, Visual Couture Runway Modeling and Paparazzi Perfect.

De Barros’ early involvement with Visual Couture as a founding member is a memory that she’ll carry with her the rest of her life, including meeting her best friends there. It’s also how she met her boyfriend, Alexander Dominguez ’12, who also models professionally.

“We were best friends in college, and we never thought that we would be doing this together,” she said.

The clubs also serve as a formi- dable training ground for future models.

“It gives you an opportunity to express yourself,” de Barros said. “A lot of people in the fashion industry are very creative. … It de nitely broke me out of my shell.”

For example, Visual Couture o ers Couture Clinics to train members on new techniques. It helps the young women and men involved build con dence.

“We spend time building con – dence through how you walk, how you talk, how you show yourself through those looks,” said Visual Couture president Elizabeth Morafa, a senior. “We’re all about con dence through fashion.”

The Business of Being a Model

Before de Barros earned her degree, she ew to South Beach during her senior year spring break to make one last go of becoming a professional.

“I went to every single modeling agency that came to mind. I did a lot of research and everyone said no again,” de Barros said. “Except on my very last day, the very last agency I went to was Next. They gave me a contract on the spot, and I cried like a baby!”

She soon left Miami for her rst job, modeling for German retailer Otto.

De Barros needs representa- tion in each market. Agencies coordinate to avoid con icts or seek higher-paying gigs. De Barros is also represented by Wilhelmenia in Miami, MGM in Hamburg, Germany, and Q Management in New York and Los Angeles.

Passport to Her Dreams

While she already had the bub- bly personality and good genes, FSU helped prepare de Barros.

Promoting student events for the Social Marketing Team enhanced her experience, too.

“When I was with Missy Martz ’95, we were always on Twitter, trying to get the campus com- munity involved,” de Barros said. “Taking what she taught us in a small community and applying it to the world, I have to get every- body on my side and not just a small community like Frostburg.”

Managing social media is part of her job, and in some cases, it a ects whether she will get a job. De Barros has more than 8,000 followers on Instagram. For some, that’s perfect because that number tells clients that she has a local
or regional audience. For others, they demand at least 10,000 followers before considering a model.

rough it all, De Barros feels like she’s living the dream, feeling those “Is this real?” moments traveling to exotic locales like
the Maldives and Mauritius. She needs a new passport now from all of her traveling, and she hopes someday a shoot with Victoria’s Secret or Sports Illustrated is in the o ng.

“I’ve never been happier in my life,” she said. “I am so thankful to be able to wake up and do something that I love.”

It’s good to be Imena.

Training To Be A Diplomat? Attend Frostburg State

You just don’t become a diplomat. It takes special experiences and training.

It turns out that Frostburg State University’s Model Organization of American States course might be the perfect place to get started. Here’s my story that was published in the latest issue of Profile magazine, the Alumni magazine for Frostburg State University.

The story published with a Q-and-A with alumnus Justin van Fleet ’02, who personifies this course experience. You can read the complete Q-and-A on the Frostburg.edu website.

DIPLOMATS IN TRAINING: FROSTBURG STATE UNIVERSITY STUDENTS MASTER DIPLOMACY IN D.C

By Charles Schelle

Across the street from the Washington Monument, Frostburg State University student CJ Barnett struck up a conversation with anyone he could see in the sunlit grand hall of the Organization of American States’ main building.

The mammoth room quickly became an intimate affair as Barnett, from Elkton, Md., worked to get to know other students so he could persuade them to take his side in the discussions to come. To the strangers he met, Barnett wasn’t representing FSU. He was representing the nation of Colombia, leading the delegation in this real-world diplomatic exercise, the 2017 Washington Model Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly for Universities.

“Talking to the people is honestly my favorite part,” the political science major said. “I’ve enjoyed every second of meeting with people from all different backgrounds, all different cultures.”

Not every student is so at ease in large social settings, but even if they have the gift of gab, they had better be prepared to speak about policy, too.

“It was a stressful nightmare,” political science major Cameron Shanton said, smiling as he recalled his first year at the Model OAS. “Slowly, you get used to it. It’s like being thrown into a massive social situation. Anyone would be uncomfortable. You have to speak in front of everyone and convince them of your viewpoint,” said the Thurmont, Md., resident.

Those nightmares quickly turn into a dream week for students. Public speaking is just one of the lessons learned during the weeklong simulation, promoting democracy through diplomacy. It’s the hallmark experience of the FSU Political Science 435 course, Model Organization of American States.

“You do everything a diplomat would do,” said A’Lexus Blue, who earned her political science degree in May. “That’s meeting with other members, talking about bilateral agreements, multilateral agreements.” The Accokeek, Md., resident said time was also required to discuss  United Nations documents and merge them.

The OAS, headquartered in the nation’s capital, is the world’s longest-running regional political union, promoting democracy and defending human rights among member nations in the Western Hemisphere. The event is coordinated with the Institute for Diplomatic Dialogue in the Americas and provides a simulated environment for college students to conduct diplomatic negotiations, as well as handle a surprise crisis scenario announced during opening day.

Barnett, Blue and Shanton were joined by students Jessica Johnson Clay of Cockeysville, Md.; Omar Taylor of Salisbury, Md., who also graduated in May; and Will Woodcock of Columbia, Md.

A Mental and Social Exercise

Being book smart will serve students well at the Washington Model OAS General Assembly. That knowledge has to be expressed in a friendly and strategic way at a dais or in one-on-one chats called unmoderated caucuses. The students had their own topics of concentration in committees that deal with democratization, poverty, human rights or drugs.

Political Science Professor Dr. Joan Serafin Andorfer has been the president of the Institute for Diplomatic Dialogue in the Americas since 2000, and serves as a co-organizer of the Model OAS. FSU has sent students to the Model OAS for more than 30 years. Andorfer has witnessed students blossom at the Model OAS, realizing their dreams by solving problems on their own.

“Our students see that they have talents that they didn’t realize they had, or talents they want to acquire,” Andorfer said. “They see there is a place in the world for them to make a difference. I try to teach that in the classroom, but until they actually experience it, they really don’t see how it can be so valuable.”

Before students arrive in OAS, they spend the semester learning about the history of the country they represent, researching modern-day policies of the country, preparing draft resolutions and learning how to conduct themselves in the meetings. It all can feel abstract until a student is faced with a microphone while surrounded by hundreds of peers, having to adjust strategy on the fly.

“Studying for Colombia and the various policies isn’t the hard part,” Barnett said. “The hard part is understanding how every single other state within the OAS is going to respond.”

“If you really have great ideas, you have to be able to communicate them in a language everybody can understand,” Andorfer said. “When they get here, they realize a misplaced comma can be diabolical to what they’re trying to achieve.”

A Global Perspective

FSU students in the class are seeing already how the course and trip will help them during their next steps.

Woodcock wants to attend law school and work for a nonprofit dedicated to protecting animals. He anticipates the Model OAS experience will help him bridge divides.

“It gives you a broader range of knowledge of where people come from, what they expect and what’s expected of them,” Woodcock said. “Hopefully, that will help me interact with people from different cultures.”

Taylor, a law and society major concentrating in criminal justice, found it reassuring that students from the real Colombia indicated that he was on the right track with his resolution for judicial reform on drug use by expanding rehabilitation. He’s feeling optimistic, as he wants to go into a career involving international politics.

“It helps that I have some expertise in diplomacy,” Taylor said.

In the end, FSU as Colombia’s resolution passed 18-9.

The Model OAS experience is supported through Opportunity Grants, which are made possible through gifts to the FSU Foundation’s Annual Fund. To support experiences like this one, visit www.frostburg.edu/foundation/ways-to-give or call 301-687-4161.

 

Making Math Fun Again: Dead Poets Society Breathes Life into Math at Frostburg State

Background:

It can be challenging to find a compelling story about your blue chip majors like mathematics and one academic club at Frostburg State puts a face to numbers.

We tend to think of majors like mathematics in a vacuum, almost how your mother would ask, “Well, what are you going to do with an English degree?” Someone ignorant, partially incredulous. These majors are typically coupled with another major, especially for future teachers and engineers.

Mathematics faculty brought a chapter of the Dead Poets Society to Frostburg State University after hearing about it at a conference. The club shows that something as complex and difficult for most of us can be socially invigorating and inspiring. Plus, the club atmosphere is great about breaking down barriers.

As Assistant Professor of Mathematics Justin Dunmyre explains, the movie “Dead Poets Society” isn’t exclusively about poetry — it’s about finding your passion. And that’s what this club does, but with a math bent. (I still have to watch this classic, which I’m ashamed to say because I am a big Robin Williams fan.)

It was critical that this story included video storytelling to show how happy and engaging the students are with the faculty, puzzles and yes, Rock Band —a story with images showing much more than students quixotically inspecting a worksheet.

Frostburg State University Dead Poets Society Breathes Life and Fun into Mathematics
Originally Published: 02/22/2017

Frostburg State University Dead Poets Society Breathes Life and Fun into Mathematics

Oh Captain! My captain! Rise up and hear the excitement over mathematics among friends.

You can hear the laughter and debate each Monday coming from Room 247 in the Gira Center for Communications and Information Technology. That’s where a new academic club at Frostburg State University called the Dead Poets Society seeks to make math a social experience. Brain teasers, puzzles and even the video game Rock Band are all part of the equation that solves for fun.

Assistant Professor of Mathematics Dr. Justin Dunmyre says the club shares its name with the movie starring Robin Williams. Math plays a storytelling role in the movie.

The move is about celebrating one’s passion, and that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Dunmyre says.

Mathematics major Sarah Sparks of Sykesville says the club helped her feel more connected with the campus as a transfer student coming from Carroll Community College.

I really didn’t know anybody. I really didn’t have any friends. Coming to the math game nights that we were having at the time, it got me interacting with other people in my math classes and got me interacting with other people in general,” Sparks says. “I think it’s really important to kind of take a break from the math that’s stressing you out during the semester and doing math that’s just for fun.”

Mechanical engineering major Demetrick McDonald of Randallstown says the puzzles and math problems help him reset during a grinding semester.

“Doing these challenges and these brain teasers are just a way to distract my mind, but it’s a constructive distraction,” McDonald says. “It’s a distraction from everything that I am doing, but it’s constructive in the sense that I’m using my brain to still answer questions and different things, not to mention I get to sit down and have time with all my friends and hang out and crack jokes.”

Frostburg State started its own chapter in the 2016 fall semester. The initial chapter started at Berry College in Georgia. Dunmyre describes the club as an underground national movement.

The club was created as a service of the Department of Mathematics, a way for students to connect with faculty and their peers. Dunmyre attends each meeting, along with the department chair, Associate Professor Dr. Marc Michael, and Assistant Professor Dr. Sarah Dumnich.

“I found out about it at the National Meeting of Mathematicians, and it sounded like a really good way of just building a math community,” Dunmyre says.

Dead Poets Society also kills the notion that math is not solved aloud.

“The hardest problems require communication between people,” Dunmyre says. “Just getting a community together is really important.”

The puzzles and questions cater to a variety of levels and majors. One night could feature a brief worksheet of questions testing math and logic. Another night might feature matchstick puzzles or the game Knights and Knaves. When students really need a break from brain teasers, they get together to play Rock Band, a video game, one night each month.

“The idea by doing different activities is to get lots of different people interested and involved – not just people who are excited about math,” Sparks says. “It’s just another way for people to socially interact and kind of let loose in this environment where we get to interact with each other.”

The Dead Poets Society at FSU is open to any student and features a diverse mix of majors with puzzles and questions for all levels. Meetings are held at 5 p.m. each Monday in Gira Center Room 245.

For more information about the Dead Poets Society, contact Justin Dunmyre at jrdunmyre@frostburg.edu.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.

More Harry Potter Magic at Frostburg State (Video)

Frostburg State University’s Children’s Literature Centre has a trifecta of major community events for children.

I’ve covered Pirate’s Ahoy in the summer, Storybook Holiday in December and in February, it’s Harry Potter Book Night.

This year was the first time I had the chance to cover the Harry Potter event and it’s taught me to really come ready to shoot out of the gate next year. Unlike the other events, Harry Potter Book Night only lasts a few hours but Everything.Is.Happening.At.Once.

So for next time, while I’ll lose some ambience behind the people being interviewed, the interviews have to be done after the event because I missed a few areas I wanted b-roll from. Still, the students do a tremendous job telling the story of Harry Potter Book Night in their own words.

The first video is a fun story on exchange student Harry Buchan playing Harry Potter. The guy is from England and is a huge fan. It doesn’t get any better than this! (Our News and Media intern Melani Finney provides the voice for my script.)

The second video tells what the night is about and what it entails through the words of graduate student Chenoa Zais from the CLC:

Storybook Holiday Creates Magic for Frostburg Business Community

The story about Frostburg State’s economic impact on the community needs to be told. It’s something that’s said in the community about how FSU benefits the community through spending, but it’s important to show that it’s not just from its employees spending money. The university has many programs it provides and produces for the community, creating sales spurred by tourism. Storybook Holiday is just one of many events that you can see how much FSU helps the area.

Originally published: 12/13/2016

When Storybook Holiday is unwrapped each December in Frostburg, it’s a gift that keeps on giving for downtown businesses.storybook

The event, coordinated by Frostburg State University’s Children’s Literature Centre, completed its 13th year where an event that inspires reading for children also inspires purchases in local shops and brings out a festive spirit from merchants to make the event successful.

“One of the biggest reasons that CLC Director Bill Bingman and I started this was to get people to come and see why we love this town so much,” said Dr. Barbara Ornstein, associate director of the Children’s Literature Centre. “It’s such a great place for kids but we wanted them to see our little shops, good places and great restaurants.”

Storybook Shopping

Main Street Books is one of the busiest businesses during the event, thanks to the literacy theme. Owner Fred Powell says children and their parents flood the store for a solid three hours, buying up children’s books during the day. The day is his second busiest Saturday of the year behind Small Business Saturday.

“This is the benchmark for the holiday season in Frostburg,” Powell said.

More than 2,000 people – about 700 children and their families – show up to the annual celebration that is tied in to a winter-themed book selected by the Children’s Literature Centre, and includes a visit and interaction with the author or illustrator. Powell credits the more than 250 student and alumni volunteers in making the event so large and successful.

“It wouldn’t have happened without all of these people to do it,” Powell added.

Ornstein and Bingman knew that part of the event’s success means getting the kids to go into the stores with their parents, so they developed a bookmark in which participating businesses give out holiday stickers to fill up the bookmark. After five stickers, children can show their bookmarks to Grammy’s Attic, Lorenzo’s Bakery and McFarland Candies to receive a free treat.

“Even if they don’t buy anything then, they go, ‘Oh, I didn’t know this existed,’” Ornstein said.

This year, 22 businesses participated as sticker stops and at least 35 businesses donated space or supplies, FrostburgFirst Main Street Manager Jessica Palumbo said.

“It brings a whole new level to the meaning of community that they’re so involved,” said Palumbo, an FSU alumnus.

Community Spirit

The day is not just about sales and exposure, as some businesses donate supplies or food or use their space to make the event successful. Armstrong Insurance Agency closes its office for the Saturday event so the building can serve as elf headquarters for the volunteers. FSU Educational Professions instructor Sarah O’Neal coordinates with local elementary schools to decorate storefronts for the season. She has decorated Main Street Books’ storefront for the last 11 years. Volunteer groups make wreaths for the city’s lamp posts, too.

“Thousands of cars drive through here each week, and what a sight to drive through and what a statement to make to have pretty much every business you see as you come through town with their windows decorated,” Palumbo said.

P.S. Hair Designs certainly makes a statement, transforming Peggy Atkinson’s salon into Santa’s House.

Atkinson works up until noon the day before the event, then takes all of her retail products off the shelves and shoves anything that looks like it belongs in a salon into her storage room. All Friday night, her family and friends transform her business into the North Pole. Outside, she has wooden panels painted like Santa’s House, swallowing her storefront.

“I never dreamed when we started this that it would be this magical,” said Atkinson, who goes by Momma Frost during Storybook Holiday. (Her son, Rick Stevenson ’04, volunteered at Storybook Holiday when he was an education major at FSU and has been involved ever since. He has portrayed Jack Frost for many years now.)

Atkinson knows she won’t make a dime on Storybook Holiday, but every smile she sees on kids’ faces is worth it.

“I don’t even do it thinking somebody will come back,” she said. “I do it because we love Storybook Holiday.”

The sparkling atmosphere of Storybook Holiday continues inside City Place, where educational professions majors make snowflakes to hang from the ceiling and other student volunteers acting as Santa’s helpers run activities. Back on Main Street, before the parade begins, students from Mountain City Center for the Arts sing holiday tunes to preview the troupe’s annual Christmastime shows.

“Everywhere you look there’s some reminder that it’s winter and the holidays are coming,” Ornstein said. “Storybook Holiday turns Frostburg into a little winter wonderland.”

Storybook Holiday sponsors also include the city of Frostburg, FrostburgFirst and PNC Bank.

Tourist Elves

The love for the holiday event is turning into a driver for tourism, too. Dorothea Lay and her daughter Toni Lay, 14, of Bethesda, drove up to Frostburg with Toni’s childhood friend Meredith Blanchard, 13, who came from Connecticut. Toni remembered how much she loved the event when they were 5 years old and invited her friend Meredith to help celebrate Toni’s 14th birthday.

“Everyone in Frostburg is so into it, which I love,” Toni said.

The girls fully embraced Storybook Holiday by dressing as elves, helping to hand out bookmarks while walking in the parade and winning the people’s choice award for their lemon bar cookies (dubbed “So a Lemon Walked Into a Bar”) in the cookie contest.

As much as Meredith and Toni enjoyed the event, they got a bigger thrill making the littler kids smile at their elf outfits.

“One little kid came up to me and asked me if I was a real elf,” Toni said. “It was fun seeing all the little kids be so excited about everything.”

It was as if they were keeping an eye on all the little ones for Santa.

“If you gave them a wink, they whispered to their parents, ‘Oh my gosh, the elves just winked at me!’” Meredith said. “It was pretty neat to see them do what I would have done when I was really little.”

Part of why Meredith and Toni could still enjoy Storybook Holiday is because the event has grown to a full-day festival that’s great for all ages. Powell is encouraged by the buy-in of everyone involved with Storybook Holiday, seeing it grow from an event attended by a hundred people to well over 2,000.

“Everybody’s been touched by some sort of success by it,” Powell said. “If nothing else, it just makes you feel good.”

For more information about the Children’s Literature Centre, call 301-687-3133 or visit www.frostburg.edu/clc.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.

 

Frostburg State University History Professor’s Book Examines Social History of Workplace Smoking

Greg Wood’s book is a fascinating look at how much smoking played a role in labor relations, especially involving unions. I interned in Erie, Pa., during my final semester of college in 2006 and never knew the history of worker’s revolts and workplace spying that led to a bargained smoke break at the former Hammermill Paper Co., plant.

Originally Published: 01/23/2017

woodDid the ability to smoke on the job serve as a barometer on labor relations in the last 100 years?

That question and others are explored by Frostburg State University associate professor of history Dr. Gregory Wood in a new book about the 20th-century tug of war between employer and smoker. “Clearing the Air: The Rise and Fall of Smoking in the Workplace” is an academic book published by Cornell University Press that examines the history of labor strife, government regulation and sentiment about smoking in the workplace in the 20th century. Wood, who is also the Honors Program director at FSU, plans on using the hardcover book as the basis of his HIST 299 Writing and Research in History course in the fall.

The reasons for writing the book run deep with Wood, who described himself as a “heavily addicted workplace smoker” in his teens and 20s.

By age 29, Wood could not touch another cigarette after a decade-plus of lighting up.

“My immune system was compromised,” said Wood, who is now 43. “I was getting really bad sinus and strep throat pretty regularly during the winter months. I really felt that it was definitely time.”

During Wood’s research, he found how much smoking was at the center of labor feuds at the former Hammermill Paper Co. plant in Erie, Pa., during the early 1900s – to the point that cigarette breaks were negotiated in exchange for wages and labor peace. He recognized those workers’ feelings well as a young smoker.

“Workplace rules that stood between me and my cigarettes were deeply resented at the time,” Wood said.

Like most smokers, Wood would have to leave his work to go smoke, experiencing withdrawals, and it eventually affected his leisure, too.

“At times, it was so bad I couldn’t sit through a movie in a movie theater. It was hard for me to go two hours without smoking,” Wood said. “I remember sitting through the movie ‘Titanic,’ which is extraordinarily long and absolutely nic-fitting.”

Wood wants readers to understand addiction as a common occurrence in workplace social history as well as to follow the rise and fall of smoking at work.

“The golden age of smoking in the workplace was very brief,” Wood said. “Probably during the 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s, but for most of the decades of the 20th century, smoking was largely prohibited and forbidden very strenuously by employers.”

Even in the early part of the 20th century, industrial employers were “vehemently anti-smoking,” including Hammermill and Ford Motor Co., Wood added. Eventually, smoking became the addiction of choice at the workplace.

“If the working class of the 19th century was drinking its way through the 19th century, workers in the 20th century would smoke their way into the new century,” Wood said.

Today in the 21st century, smoking bans and the repeal of existing bans continue to be debated in communities across the country. Similar workplace battles rage on with the advent of smokeless cigarettes and vaping.

“It struck me that nicotine has outlasted its historical source, which is tobacco,” Wood said. “Nicotine and nicotine addiction will long survive after tobacco is gone into the ashtray of history.”

“Clearing the Air” is available for purchase through Cornell University Press and online booksellers.

Wood is available for interviews about his research on smoking in the workplace, its effects on unionization, social effects of smoking bans and the role of tobacco in American life by calling 301-687-4998 or emailing gwood@frostburg.edu.

Happy Halloween

Sometimes I still get to write a slice of life story that still meets our marketing messages.

Here’s a fun Halloween story I wrote on how Frostburg State Recreation and Parks Management majors were in charge of the city’s Halloween Party. I also shot and edited a video, wrote the script and had our intern Emily Michael do the voiceover.

10/28/2016

Frostburg State Students Treat Children to Halloween Tricks With Annual Town Party

Someone has to be responsible for keeping little goblins occupied during Halloween.

Frostburg State University recreation and parks management majors take on that duty by organizing the Halloween Party at City Place in Frostburg, giving the students practical hands-on experience while providing local children some spooky fun.

This year, students Rashaan Rhoden and Jeremy Pearson led the effort organizing the party, held Thursday, Oct. 27, working with the City of Frostburg’s Parks and Recreation Department.

“They have their parade and they have their trick or treating, but this is something a bit more special where they get their haunted house experience and be a little frightened,” said Pearson, a Boonsboro resident who also earned his associate’s degree in Adventure Sports from Garrett College.

Finding ways to keep kids entertained with some not-as-frightening Halloween activities gave Rhoden leadership opportunities that brought him out of his shell. He said that the Recreation Leadership and Program Planning courses within his major aided his growth.

“When I tell my mom I’m helping directing a program for the City of Frostburg, she’s so happy for me because I wasn’t like that when I first came here. I liked to stay to myself,” Rhoden said. “That’s the whole point of being in Recreation and Parks: You get out of your comfort zone. That’s why I love the teachers in it. Planning programs like this makes me happy. I recommend it for anybody.” Continue reading Happy Halloween

FSU Students Find Way to National Institutes of Health Thanks to Partnership

5d5e96a1-9b8f-4510-85a23030e6fe41f4_mediumBy Charles Schelle

Eugenia Asare is helping the nation’s top scientists find answers about anthrax before she earns her bachelor’s degree from Frostburg State University.

The health sciences major from Gaithersburg is working with world-renowned experts at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md., to help solve unanswered questions about anthrax by seeing what happens when a harmless protein found in the potential biological weapon is mutated.

“Research like this seems to be something you do at a Harvard or Yale, but to come from Frostburg and to be able to represent my school at NIH, it really is encouraging,” said Asare, who enters her senior year in the fall. “I hope a lot more Frostburg students can be able to do this as well.”

Asare completed an internship at NIH in summer 2015 then continued independent study research at FSU with related experiments in a student-safe system involving a different bacterial species. Continue reading FSU Students Find Way to National Institutes of Health Thanks to Partnership

A Fitting Relationship: ‘Healthy’ Partnership a Benefit to Business, FSU Students and Grads

As appeared in the Fall 2016 edition of Profile magazine. Republished in the Cumberland Times-News

By Charles Schelle

Amy Schwab Owens has built her life and business around helping others.

Her LaVale gym, Life Fitness Management, not only helps her clients find a path to better lives, but she and her co-owners are doing the same by building relationships with Frostburg State University students, faculty and staff.

“The students that I have that come out of the program know their stuff. They’re impressive,” said Schwab Owens, a 2002 FSU master’s graduate. “They can back up what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, which is really key when you’re working with somebody in this field.”

Schwab Owens, along with co-owners Brenda Owens, Greg Dull and Dr. Stephen Owens, Class of 1971, have made FSU an important part of their business and fitness community through offering internships, field trips and partnering with various FSU departments.

Thirteen of 15 Life Fitness Management employees have a degree from FSU. Also, Dull attended FSU for several years, and Stephen Owens, Schwab Owens’ husband, is a professor emeritus from FSU’s Department of Computer Science. Continue reading A Fitting Relationship: ‘Healthy’ Partnership a Benefit to Business, FSU Students and Grads