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First-Year Teachers Prepare for Life in the Classroom

Two young educators discuss their paths to South River and Southern high schools, and why teaching in Anne Arundel County is their "dream job."

In a job market where college graduates may struggle to find work, local teachers Zach Cohen and Libby Kozlowski admit they hit the jackpot.

Both Cohen and Kozlowski are younger than 25, they both graduated in May and they both scored their “dream job”—teaching for Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS).

At last week’s Board of Education meeting, AACPS’ Executive of Human Resources Florie Bozzella said qualified teachers were turning down AACPS jobs for positions in neighboring counties. But for Cohen and Kozlowski, Anne Arundel County puts them both exactly where they want to be.

The New Guy at South River

Cohen, a first-year tech ed teacher at South River High, moved from rural Pennsylvania with his fiancée to join the Seahawks’ faculty. The 23-year-old Cohen specializes in engineering, design and robotics—one of the largest reasons why he’s elated to work at the local high school.

“One of the biggest things is, I’m not teaching wood shop here,” Cohen said. “I’ve been involved in robotics for six years now so coming in and taking over for [the South River Robotics team] …  I just really love engineering and design, that’s why I’m teaching.”

As the head mentor of South River’s award-winning robotics team, Cohen hopes to continually grow the emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering Mathematics (STEM) throughout the school. Pennsylvania is “hacking apart” its education system, Cohen said, so when he learned in March that AACPS had a specific focus on STEM programs, he began submitting his resume to local schools.

Cohen said he’s confident South River will enrich his life professionally, but also added that he loves living in Annapolis, providing an opportunity for a more bustling social life and a break from their past four years in Lancaster, PA.

“At Home” at Southern High

As a first-year art teacher at Southern High, Kozlowski had a similarly quick path to her new job. She graduated from University of Maryland on May 21 and interviewed for a position at Southern High three days later. Then, just weeks later, she got a call from AACPS saying she got the job.

While Cohen moved hundreds of miles to teach in Anne Arundel County, by taking a job at Southern, Kozlowski was simply coming home.

The 24-year-old Kozlowski grew up in Davidsonville, graduated from South River High and spent her student-teaching semester in college at Southern. She added that it was “surreal” for her to be offered a job at the very same school she developed such strong relationships with during her final semester in college.

“I felt really lucky and really blessed,” Kozlowski said. “What are the odds that I’d be placed at Southern and there would be a position there?”

Kozlowski said she’s had trouble explaining to people why she loved Southern so much, but said she attributes the tight-knit art department as one of the reasons she’s excited to be a Bulldog.

“It wasn’t until the end of my student teaching that this position became available. It was just a moment of ‘This is where I’m supposed to be,’” she said. “Maybe no one will understand, but this is home.”

As one of eight children, Kozlowski hopes to instill a passion for art with her students and help them realize it can be a powerful avenue for self-expression, she said.

Facing the Students

Both Cohen and Kozlowski said their lesson plans for the upcoming year are fairly simple and already outlined, but admitted that classroom management and facing students alone were their biggest fears going into the first day of school.

“Classroom management … it’s what keeps me up at night. It’s extremely important to me that I know everything about [my students] so I can be a better teacher,” Cohen said. “I can be very laid back, but I know I can’t be that laid back in class. For discipline, it’s a combination.”

Kozlowski, who has her own classroom at Southern, said having every single eye on her while she teaches will take some getting used to.

“I’m nervous but excited. I’m the only one in the room. It sounds like a really big fear, but it’s not,” Kozlowski said. “All first-year teachers [get nervous], no one has done it. Talking to other teachers though, they still get nervous on the first day of school.”

As the young educators prepared for their first-day of classes, both couldn’t stop praising their respective schools and the region as a whole.

“[South River] is a great place—that’s the first thing everyone tells me. The kids are great, there’s wonderful parent involvement,” Cohen said.

“Southern already has so much stuff that involves the community. They have so much already in place, I’m just excited that I can be a part of that,” Kozlowski said. “Like I said, it just feels like home.”  

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