08/17/07 — Teachers head to their own 'first day'

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Teachers head to their own 'first day'

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 17, 2007 1:45 PM

The board room of Wayne County Public Schools' administrative offices was packed with new teachers Thursday morning, receiving last-minute readiness training before entering their classrooms next week.

Debbie Durham, human resources lead teacher, is responsible for the new educators, who arrive from a variety of backgrounds -- recent college graduates, military transfer, lateral entry.

Despite the looming teacher shortage and having to fill vacant slots left by retirees and transfers, Mrs. Durham says the school year, which begins for students Aug. 27, is starting on a high note.

"We have more first-year teachers this year than we have ever had at any point in time," she said. "Right now, we have 100, and that number grows daily. We have never had that many this early in the year."

It is exciting, she said, because it means that more classrooms will be filled before the children arrive. And, she noted, "with highly qualified teachers."

They come from all over, she said -- North and South Carolina, Michigan, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Colorado and Alaska. Most were education majors.

"We have them from K-12, a large majority, I would say ... probably closer to 60 percent are elementary education," she said. "We still have special ed open. We still have guidance counselors (needed), a few math and science, but the big push is for exceptional children."

Since Aug. 6, the new teachers have attended workshops and training for the coming year.

It has been beneficial in "bringing everything together," said Kevin Smith, a native of Wayne County who will work with special needs high school youths at Edgewood Community Developmental School.

"I started preparing for this two years ago, after graduating from Mount Olive College," he said. "I have been working around children the last 15 years doing after school programs, some enrichment programs."

He also spent two years as an instructional assistant.

"It's been a long process," he said. "I'm going to be a better teacher after having been an instructional assistant first."

Emily Probst also worked for two years as an instructional assistant, in Oklahoma, where her military husband was stationed before being transferred to Goldsboro in the spring. She holds a master's degree in elementary education and will teach first grade at Northwest Elementary.

"When I found out we were transferring here, I put 20 packets together," she said. "Right off the bat, coming from a different school district from out of state, I have felt unbelievably welcome. "

Maggie Keaner is also a transplant. After attending a teacher job fair at Eastern Michigan University, she pursued the move to North Carolina. She will be teaching second grade at Northwest Elementary.

The recent college graduate said she learned a lot during orientation.

"From that standpoint, I'm not scared about anything, but from the first-year teacher standpoint, I am scared about everything."

Ms. Keaner said she is looking forward to the start of school.

"I cannot wait to be in my classroom and see what I can do with my students," she said.

At 53, Sue Hill says she is "probably the oldest new teacher," but it is something she has always wanted to do.

After years working in her family's business, the timing of a teacher training program introduced at Wayne Community College couldn't have been better.

"Wachovia Partnership East enables students to go two years to community college without leaving their community," she said. "It opened up at the exact time that I was ready to go to college. I have been able to obtain my degree without leaving the county."

The wife and mother just graduated from the program July 27. She will teach seventh and eighth grade exceptional children at Grantham School.

"I'm so excited to be teaching," she said. "I have been doing remediation three and one-half years with a lot of these children, that's just where my heart is.

"Special ed is a calling. You don't choose it; it chooses you."