Teachers Column

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West Virginia teachers are being accused of looking a gift horse in the mouth. Citing the state's commitment to public education, Gov. Gaston Caperton proposed a $500 pay raise for all public school teachers during his State of the State Address last month.

But when a teachers' group representative responded by panning, rather than praising, the governor's proposal, one Democratic lawmaker launched a counterattack against teachers' "arrogant, self-centered greed."

The flap began when Judy Hale, the president of the 5,000-member West Virginia Federation of Teachers, told reporters that the Democratic governor's proposed pay raise was "insulting," given that West Virginia teachers lag $5,000 below the national average for teachers' salaries.

"Because we are at the bottom, we wanted a three-year pay package that would move us closer to the top," Ms. Hale said. Teachers had no pay raise last year, she added.

Bruce N. Petersen, a Democratic state delegate, responded on the House floor with an unusually strong rebuke of Ms. Hale. He said the governor had made a massive commitment of dollars to public education over his career. And he said teachers were fortunate to receive any pay raise while other services such as health care were suffering cutbacks.

"I called her on her choice of words," Mr. Petersen later said in an interview.

Teachers' union representatives have since turned their attention to the proposed "rule of 80," under which teachers could retire when their age plus years of service equal 80. The Senate pensions committee is expected to meet on teachers' pension issues in coming weeks.

"If we are able to get the rule of 80, I think that the teachers would feel happier with the $500 pay increase," Ms. Hale said.

All the classroom's a stage, two instructors argue in a new book.

Basic acting skills can help a teacher better communicate information, say co-authors Cathy Sargent Mester, a lecturer in speech communication, and Robert T. Tauber, a professor of education, at Pennsylvania State University in Erie, Pa.

Their book, Acting Lessons for Teachers: Using Performance Skills in the Classroom, shows teachers how to develop an effective stage presence by using voice projection and intonation. Teachers can learn other tricks of the acting trade, such as enunciating without sounding pedantic and matching brisk delivery with decisive body movements.

The book is available for $16.95 from Greenwood Press. Call (800) 225-5800 and refer to ISBN 0-275-94824-2.

--Jeanne Ponessa

Vol. 15, Issue 20

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