More Than a Day’s Work

At 7:30 a.m., Rockdale County High School (RCHS) opens to students, meaning staff and teachers, like Nancy Glenzer, have already been on site for at least 30 minutes.

Glenzer greets students in the hall with a cheery “Hello!” and her tone doesn’t change whether she gets a response or just a sullen nod and shuffle. Teaching is more than just a day’s work for this 11-year veteran.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t enjoy what goes on in the classroom,” says Glenzer, who teaches two English classes, Creative Writing, Advanced Placement (AP) English, and AP American Literature, and is academic advisor for the school’s literary magazine.

The bell rings at 8:30 signaling first period and Glenzer’s hour-long planning period. Today she attends a staff development session where Dr. Sue Snow, principal at RCHS, discusses Exemplary Practices in Learning Focus Schools.

Next, Glenzer greets her class of 24 11th graders. Most students take their seats without discussion, for others prompting is necessary. She asks the students to name characteristics of Puritans as a prelude to a class reading of The Crucible. Some students are engaged in the discussion, others are much less so. A young woman snacks from a bag of chips. Glenzer glances at her and says firmly, “Put the food away. This is a classroom not a lunchroom.”

She continues, saying they will read a poem by Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet and then, without missing a beat, leans over to a young man, whispering, “I need someone to wash my desks. Keep doing that and you can come back after school and do it.”

Students compare and contrast the Bradstreet poem with one written by Mexican poet Sister Juana Ines de la Cruz. A Spanish-speaking student reads the poem in Spanish in order to examine the rhyme scheme in its original language. The students work on another activity before listening to a CD of a Puritan sermon. Afterward, the students have plenty to say. “That was awful!” cries one young woman. Even students who hadn’t paid attention up until now are appalled at the fire and brimstone rhetoric. As Glenzer begins to assign parts for reading The Crucible aloud, the bell rings.

Glenzer asked questions and directed activities during the entire 90-minute class. “There isn’t much downtime in my lesson,” she says.

Next up is a 90-minute planning period during which Glenzer hopes to grade stacks of essays on her desk. “I give a lot of feedback on essays,” she says. “I probably spend 15 to 20 minutes on each paper.” Instead, she inputs grades in the computer from her two AP classes for progress reports, which go home the next day. She grabs a quick bite to eat before the next class, AP English, comes in.

There are slight differences between Glenzer’s AP English and regular English classes. There is more reading and, because it’s an AP class, the students tend to be more focused; they have to choose to take this class.

The workday officially ends at 3:30 but Glenzer remains at school until 5:30 or later. One evening a week she teaches a class at a nearby high school and the rest of the week she attends after school meetings with parents, colleagues or students needing extra help.

In addition to an undergraduate degree from the University of California-Irvine, Glenzer also has a master’s degree in English from the University of Georgia. She is Gifted Certified, Teacher Support Certified, has a Reading Endorsement, and earned a National Board Certification (NBC), which measures a teacher’s classroom work against rigorous national standards.

To earn the NBC, teachers provide an assortment of work samples and complete written exercises to exhibit mastery of subjects taught. At the end of the process, recipients earn a financial bonus for their efforts, unless they live in Georgia where teachers must transfer to a “needs improvement” school (under provisions of No Child Left Behind) or the bonus is taken away.

Glenzer says that interpretation of the provision is counterproductive: “We shouldn’t make teachers choose between [getting the certification] and keeping their job at their school.” Instead, Glenzer says, the legislature needs to show teachers and citizens how much they value education by funding it responsibly. “I don’t want us to just settle,” she adds. “I want us to value knowledge.”

Categories: Influential Georgians