Amelia Markosian, Kent County’s Teacher of the Year, has been teaching science at Kent County Middle School for six years. But her connection to Kent County goes back well before that.
Her parents used to summer in Gregg Neck on the Sassafras River when she was in grade school. She remembers making friends in the neighborhood, visiting the Tea Party Festival, even working on schooner Sultana before its launch. But she returned for good seven years ago, with her teaching certificate in hand, and she soon found work as a long-term substitute at Galena Elementary School. A year later, a job at KCMS opened up – and the rest is history.
The Chestertown Spy visited Markosian for one of her classes Thursday, April 26 – a sixth-grade class with a focus on astronomy. The students were learning about the Moon – its phases, its distance from the Earth, and other basic facts about our closest celestial neighbor.
Markosian grew up in Willow Grove, a Philadelphia suburb, graduating from Upper Moreland High School and continuing her education at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. At the time, McDaniel didn’t offer an education major, so she majored in art with a minor in education – and enough extra credits to qualify for her teaching certificate. After teaching six months at a private school in Pennsylvania, she decided to try her luck in Maryland. She and her husband, Igor Markosian, were high school sweethearts. They now live in Chestertown and Igor commutes to his job in Middletown, Delaware.
You don’t have to watch Markosian at work for long to see why she was chosen Teacher of the Year. She is full of energy, easily engaging her students in discussion, and it’s obvious that she enjoys science. Speaking to the class about the space program and plans for a manned journey to Mars, she radiated enthusiasm. “It’ll be a really big thing,” she said, comparing it to the first manned lunar expedition. “I can’t wait to see the pictures!” She emphasized that the Mars visit would take place in the students’ lifetimes.
The students asked what the next step after Mars would be. “The moons of Jupiter,” she said, but cautioned that it was well in the future.
The students watched a video – “Earth’s Orbit Song” – that presented a wealth of facts about the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon, with a catchy rhythm and bright illustrations. Markosian drew attention to two facts from the video – the fact that the orbits of the celestial bodies are elliptical, and the distance from the Earth to the Moon is large enough for all the other planets in the Solar System to fit between the Earth and the Moon–that’s a long distance!
While much of the class involved the students working with iPads and other high-tech educational tools, Markosian was quick to use lower-tech instructional methods. At one point, she held her hand near her face to illustrate the relative positions of the Earth and Moon. At another point, she sat with several students at a table with bright lights to simulate the Sun, and small rubber balls representing the Earth and Moon. By changing the positions of the rubber balls, the students could see not only the phases of the Moon but the geometry of eclipses. “This is so cool!” said one student.
That sentiment is one Markosian shares. Asked why she chose science teaching as a career, she said she had taught every subject while substituting at Galena and realized “science was the most fun. I want to be one of the fun teachers,” the ones the students talk about when they get home.
She spoke enthusiastically about her own scientific interests – notably a teachers’ workshop with NASA at Wallops Island, where she rubbed elbows with space scientists and got to see a launch from “about 300 feet away.” Kent County’s school system, she said, has been wonderful about providing educational opportunities for their teachers. She also told of visiting an active volcano – a cultural tour of Hawaii’s Kilauea, with a Hawaiian tribal chief as her guide. The volcano is a sacred spot in the Hawaiian religion, and visits are strictly regulated, she said.
In addition to her science classes, Markosian also coaches cheerleading and takes part in the Positive Behavior Intervention and Support program, in which students are rewarded for good behavior. She also works with the Lamont Company to give the students experience in testing water. In another class, she taught the basics of forensics – showing the students the elements of fingerprints and toothprints to identify “suspects.” The toothprint specimens are collected using candy – which adds to the students’ interest, not surprisingly.
Markosian is taking courses toward her Master’s degree at Wilmington University in Delaware, with an eventual aim of getting certified as a school administrator. That’s a ways in the future, though – for now, she’s thoroughly enjoying her role as “the fun teacher” at Kent County Middle School.