The Ottumwa Courier


August 13, 2013

'Teaching is part performance art'

OTTUMWA — Two longtime Ottumwa High School teachers have advice for new teachers, wisdom they've gained from decades of working with students.

OHS physical education teacher Mary Orman has earned her No. 1 spot on the school's seniority list, entering her 39th year of teaching next week.

"I can still remember like it was yesterday the first class I walked into," she said. "I can tell you exactly what the students were wearing that day."

Orman hasn't been lazy in her nearly four decades of teaching. She's coached the girls' swim team, assisted with girls' track and tennis, led student council and much more.

"I look back over these last 38 years ... and every opportunity allowed or offered to me has been such a tremendous learning experience," she said. "Even at this point, there are so many things I want to learn how to do, so much training."

Teachers need to stay curious and excited about their jobs, she said, otherwise they'll become stale.

OHS chemistry teacher Kevin McGinity agreed, noting that teachers have to keep their sense of humor and be patient.

"Part of being good at something is always being suspicious that you're not," he said. "Good teaching, like anything else, looks easy."

McGinity begins his 24th year of teaching next week and said being a good teacher is a balancing act. Treat your students with respect even if you're not getting respect from them, he said. Prepare your lesson plans far in advance.

"Things should be planned out to where you're anticipating what's going to happen every five, 10, 15 minutes," he said. "When I started — and I still do this sometimes — it's down to knowing what I'm going to say when.

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