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IRMA Is A Popular Girl For Ann Arbor Teachers

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IRMA's 1,000th request came over the telephone this week after less than two months of operation in the Ann Arbor School system. A collection agency providing services for teachers, IRMA is an acronym for Information, Resources, Materials ; and Assistance. The teacher supportive service operates as the dissemination arm of the Office of Curriculum Planning. "Our first request was for the name of hyper-active animals, which we found in our research processes do not exist because they would not be able to survive," explained IRMA's director, Shirley (Rusty) Schumacher. She said IRMA has had a wide variety of requests and the 24-hour telephone service has recorded some calis from teachers as late as 3 a.m. "Most of our requests are for materials for the elementary levelss but we have gotten a significant representation from parents, administrators and secondary school staff," Mrs. Schumacher said. IRMA has made available a canoe for a junior high school water safety class, a wasp nest, information on the "sex life" of a cricket, speakers for classes and information on how a teacher can transform her classroom from a "hard to soft" environment. According to Mrs. Schumacher, a trend is developing for requests in materials for teaching basic skills and program development. "We are giving teachers more in-depth assistance for their curriculum plans," she said, "with the major thrust to help research and evaluation." Although about 90 per cent of IRMA's requests come by way of the telephone, responding to the teachers' needs involves a lot of foot work and in-the-field assistance. IRMA's staff consists not only of Mrs. Schumacher and secretary Karen Ferguson, but also four assistants for teacher services. These consultants work in the field with a home base in each of the junior high schools - Betty Anderson at Scarlett, Ruth Beatty at Tappan, Rosetta Miller at Forsythe, and Doris Sperling i at Slauson. In addition, the IRMA team operates with 10 teacher consultants from various areas of I specialization such as foreign language, mathematics, social studies, music, physical education and art. As a part of the curriculum planning office, IRMA also relies on the services of Steven Daniels, curriculum director, and his assistants, who are specialized in such realms as multi-ethnic studies, development studies and basic skills. "Some of our requests are for on-going projects and special consultations," explained Mrs. Shumacher. Once the request is made, a member of the IRMA staff takes the responsibility of responding. The program director said that depending on the type of need, either the staff itself will provide the answer or else it will inform the teacher where the information can be received. "In the case of obtaining a speaker or community resource person, we contact the person first to find out if they are available to speak and then notify the teacher that she can make the specific arrangements," said Mrs. Schumacher. The IRMA staff members also share information among themselves so that their in-put can enrich the overall program. Located on the first floor of the Administration Building, the IRMA office has i a colorful decor, including a large fish tank and a gerbil hanging from a cage on the wall. This space also serves as a teacher drop-in center for conferences with the staff. Some of the current ongoing IRMA projects, says Mrs. Schumacher, include compiling a file of some 1,500 foreign exchange students involved in the Youth For Understanding (YFU) program who are available to visit classrooms. Another project developing is a volunteer program for para-professionals to provide assistance on a regular basis. Next week, all Ann Arbor teachers will receive a handbook cataloging the specific services and information available from IRMA. I "We have been compiling this information since the start of the project and this book will coordinate the activities and guidance that IRMA offers the schools," Mrs. Schumacher said. The handbook will also contain lesson plans and curriculum materials that will be periodically updated for the teachers the following the years. According to the director of curriculum planning, I this book is expected to last at least 10 years. From a request for a recipe to make soda crackers to all of the different places youngsters can walk in Ann Arbor, I Mrs. Schumacher finds that I IRMA is very active in helping Ann Arbor teachers I "learn from each other" and enrich their own classrooms I to keep pace with the changing times.