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Wednesday, May 5, 1999

Robert Cooper Recognized By Maryland Student Service Alliance and the Maryland State Department of Education for his Commitment to Quality Education

SALISBURY, MD--Robert Cooper's enthusiasm about teaching while still a student at Salisbury State University led him to New Zealand, where he was one of the first SSU undergraduates to tackle a student teaching experience abroad.

Now, just three years after graduation, his continued commitment to quality education and his ability to convey the excitement of learning to his students have earned him the opportunity for an outstanding experience closer to home.

This spring, the Maryland Student Service Alliance, a partnership of the Student Community Service Foundation and the Maryland State Department of Education, named him one of 15 new Fellows recognized for motivating and guiding students toward meaningful service-learning projects. He will have the chance to share his techniques with colleagues around the state whilealso getting leadership training, working with local service-learning teams, writing curriculum and networking with the state's best service-learning teachers.

"I expect to gain more knowledge of the people around me and to try to learn as much as I can from the people in the profession," said Cooper, 25, who lives in Cambridge. "We want to continue the quality program that we've established, and possibly make it even better than it already is by extending our hands of help to more people in the community."

Cooper is a jack-of-all-trades, regularly teaching social studies, algebra and math at South Dorchester K-8 School in Golden Hill, Dorchester County.

He has also taught computer class, Spanish and reading. South Dorchester School is situated in a sparsely populated area where it is a challenge to create the service-learning opportunities that will enable students both to meet the Maryland graduation requirement for service learning and fulfill that requirement in meaningful ways. Most of the school's activities take place at the school, and are integrated into mathematics, social studies, English and science.

"Our middle school kids conduct food drives, promote voter registration in the fall, and command a peer mediation program," Cooper said. "We conduct food drives around the holidays and in the spring, so we keep the food pantries stocked at times people don't always remember to give to them."

Cooper graduated from SSU in 1996 with a bachelor's degree in elementary education. In addition to being among the first education students to tackle student teaching in New Zealand, he stood out by helping to establish an emergency medical service at the university with student volunteers, with a squad of emergency medical technicians and first responders for emergencies.

He returned to his native Long Island, NY, and worked as a reading teacher for a year before choosing to return to the Eastern Shore to teach in Dorchester County Public Schools. He is currently taking graduate courses at SSU and talks with teaching students bound for New Zealand about how to get the most from the experience.

"He was one of the most energetic, enthusiastic individuals that I have ever met. I just can't say enough for the potential that he has," said Dr. Amy S. Meekins, a member of the teaching faculty at SSU. "Dorchester County is one lucky community to get him. He's got a great personality, he's involved in the community, and he loves children."

Cooper and other graduates continue to be a source of pride for the Seidel School of Education and Professional Studies. "It's so rewarding for us to see our former students being so successful in their careers," Meekins said. "So many have become county teachers of the year, Sallie Mae First Year Teachers and Maryland Fellows for service learning."


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