08/15/06 — Teachers ready for new school year

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Teachers ready for new school year

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 15, 2006 1:53 PM

With a new school year starting in 10 days, teachers in Wayne County Public Schools are readying for students' return.

Classes officially resume Aug. 25. Some teachers have already returned to their respective schools to prepare their classrooms for the new slate of students.

Officials are expecting in excess of 19,000 students in the 32 schools across the county. The transportation department is working feverishly to create bus routes, with schedules due to be released next week.

This Friday is the teachers' first official workday, but for many the classwork has already begun.

Last week, the school system sponsored a summer institute for new and veteran teachers. This week, beginning teacher training is under way, and scheduled to end Thursday.

Debbie Durham, human resource lead teacher, said the school system has 60 beginning teachers this year.

The group represents a variety of backgrounds, she said.

"We had two come in from Jamaica, several from Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York," she said.

But the majority are from right here in Wayne County, she added.

While some are recent college graduates entering the teaching profession, for several this will be their second career, Mrs. Durham said. They include lateral entry teachers, college degree-holders who lack teaching certification. They will be assigned to classrooms while still completing the remainder of their requirements to become licensed teachers.

The labor-intensive four-day beginning teacher training is covering a lot of ground ranging from classroom management to lesson planning, she said.

"They're very excited, enthusiastic, ready to go to work on Friday and so excited that the kids are coming on the 25th," Mrs. Durham said. "I feel like we have done a good job so far with the orientation. They're very positive."

For some, the approaching school year means shifting gears, Mrs. Durham said. Several of the new teachers had backgrounds as instructional assistants.

Shirlene F. Baker is one of those. Since 1994, she was a fourth-grade instructional assistant at North Drive Elementary School. Four years ago, she returned to school in the weekend program at Barton College in Wilson.

She did her student teaching at North Drive and upon graduating in January, took over a fifth grade classroom and finished out the year.

This fall, she will have her own fourth grade class at the school. In a way, she said, "It's like going back home."

"It's different in that I know I'm responsible for their success, much more than when I was an assistant," she said. "This way, I have to decide exactly what each student needs and implement it."

While she admitted it's scary, she said, "I'm so excited, I can't stand it!"

She said her mother told her she was meant to be a teacher.

Kristin Booth arrived in Wayne County two weeks ago from West Virginia.

She had been out of school for a year with a major in elementary education and minors in special education and early education.

She applied for the job here on the recommendation of a college classmate who had already been hired to work in the school system last year. Ms. Booth will teach kindergarten at Brogden Primary.

"I'm really excited, I'm looking forward to it," she said. "Kindergarten would be my top choice."

Education has always been a part of her life, she said. Her mother has been a teacher for 33 years.

"It's refreshing also because I have been out of school for a year," she said. "You have to get in the teacher mode. (The training sessions are) getting me in the mode to be ready. I have gone to my classroom and arranged things and met the teachers."

Until two weeks ago, Devin Robinson was public affairs officer at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. With the contract for his job running out, he investigated lateral entry teaching.

Since he did not have sufficient credits to participate, he embarked on an intensive program to obtain the necessary credentials.

"I took 15 semester hours in June and July, expedited (online) courses in education from the University of Phoenix," he said. "Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I got back my grades from all those five courses in five weeks and got a 4.0 (grade-point average) in all of them."

Originally from Maine, Robinson said his mother and several relatives were teachers. He has his sights on one day being a professor at the college level in either history or literature.

"I really love to read," he said.

That will come in handy in his new role, teaching 11th grade English at Charles B. Aycock High School.

"I'm real excited. I'm just looking forward to getting in my classroom," he said.

The school system is fortunate to have an enthusiastic group of educators entering the classrooms this fall, said Marvin McCoy, assistant superintendent for human resources. But that does not mean the pending teacher shortage is not still a concern.

In the schools of education, he said, "We have a bucket with a big hole in the bottom. They're not graduating enough educators, and we're having to rely on lateral entry."

And that can be a positive, too, he said.

"Those are a big plus in that they bring life experiences, and with those life experiences, that helps in the area of teaching as we're trying to work with the character education piece, building esteem of students."

The current challenge in Wayne County Public Schools is in the area of teachers of exceptional children.

"Finding people that are qualified because of the new law -- No Child Left Behind, I think it should be relabeled as 'no teacher left behind,'" McCoy said. "That has created a shortfall for our system, as well as other systems."

Still, he noted, "Everything is looking up, so it's full speed ahead."

His office plans to continue its recruiting trips to replenish the pool of educators as well as its efforts to work with the local Chamber of Commerce to set up incentives to entice teachers to come to Wayne County.

McCoy said he is encouraged, though, at the number who discovered the school system's Web site and expressed an interest in teaching here.

"We have a drawer of potential candidates. The principals are coming in, and they're making calls in state and out for those prospects," he said. "I get e-mails daily for those positions."