Former Magnet teacher and CoreModels project director Mary Ellen Verona passed away on Oct 7. Her death, caused by complications from cancer, is mourned by many Blair staff and students.
Verona came to Blair as a computer science teacher in 1988. After extensive work on computer education at Blair, she received a grant of more than $1.5 million over a three-year period from the National Science Foundation. The grant allowed her to continue work on Maryland Virtual High Schools (MVHS), a program designed to bring Maryland schools together to help students meet statewide technology standards.
Two years later, Verona received another grant for MVHS CoreModels, a project that increases students' comprehension of complex problems using computer modeling activities.
Verona's enthusiasm for this project and her determination to reform technology education made her an inspiration to many other teachers at Blair. Social studies teacher James Mogge remembers how Verona's ideas helped support him as he learned new ways to teach. "Teachers were just beginning to use computers in class," he said. "She helped guide both teachers and students in the computer lab."
Throughout her career, Verona worked to stimulate students' natural curiosity. Rather than simply teach the test material, Verona gave students goals that would help them learn key concepts. "Through the search for solutions to the problem, students understand what it really means to want to learn something," Verona said in a December 1995 interview, according to www.mvhs.edu.
Rather than settle into a routine, Verona would frequently change her teaching style in order to impart information to her students. "She would teach something one way one year and teach it another way the next," said Nannette Dyas, a Magnet math teacher. "She was constantly thinking of new ways to do things."
Verona also showed great dedication to her students outside the classroom. Whether helping with projects or clarifying tough concepts, Verona was there for her students, says Blair graduate Daniel Mall. "Ms. Verona sacrificed her personal time on evenings, weekends and during the summer to help her students reach their goals," said Mall.
Verona's work with students and teachers in the Magnet was part of the inspiration for MVHS. "She believed in taking the great model of collaboration and the interdisciplinary work of the Magnet and spreading it throughout Maryland," said current MVHS coordinator Susan Ragan. A large part of Verona's vision was uniting and supporting teachers with similar goals.
CoreModels is a self-sustained program that draws new teachers every year who support each other by sharing teaching ideas through computer modeling. Verona said in the 1995 interview that she aimed to "instill the idea that [teachers] are lifelong learners." Under Verona's direction, CoreModels was recognized by the Department of Education as one of seven promising technology projects in 1999.
Funeral services for Verona were held at St. Francis of Assisi Church on Oct 12.
Additional reporting by Kevin Fang
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