More than 300 new educators will enter the classroom this fall, categorized as either lateral entry or beginning teachers, said Dr. Yvonne Mason, assistant superintendent for human resources for Wayne County Public Schools.

The district makes a concerted effort to provide support and professional development, particularly during the first three years in the profession, she said.

"There are over 18,000 students in our 32 schools, so you have a huge, huge job being the leader standing in front of those students," she said Tuesday at the district's orientation for the newer members of the teaching pool. "This becomes our opportunity to share with you what WCPS is all about, and we lay out the red carpet so you can see all the pieces of the puzzle, so that when you step into the classroom you'll be ready to teach those students."

The profession can be challenging, but the district works hard to provide leadership to shepherd them through the process, Mason said.

"I think most of you know teaching's difficult," said Dr. Michael Dunsmore, superintendent. "Develop those relationships with other teachers, with your principal -- they have been around a long time. They understand.

"It takes a lot of work hard. It's stressful. So reach out if we can be of help."

"Huddle up," Mason added, "because you've got 180 days of this."

Heath Radford, a second-year educator -- hired as media coordinator at Eastern Wayne High School last year -- said this was his first orientation session.

"I think it's beneficial to help the new teachers when they come in, to get their feet wet and learn about some of the (district) standards," he said.

Raiford said his experience adapting to the school system had been a positive one thus far.

"I love it," he said. "I love Eastern Wayne. The teachers are very nice, very helpful."

Brandi Asbury was also hired on later in last school year at Dillard Middle School.

Launching a new school year with more tools from the orientation held an appeal, she said.

"It's a good way to network and get excited about the school year," the social studies teacher said.

Patricia Rullman is a preschool teacher at School Street Early Learning Center, but also missed out on the orientation in 2017.

"I'm excited about it -- just getting the basics of what I'm supposed to be doing," she said."It's kind of a way to get pumped up for the new year."

Rullman said she felt fortunate in that she'll be participating in something called "looping," where the 4- and 5-year-old students she has in the fall will be the same ones she had last year.

"I already know my students, already know my parents and I know where they're (students are) at academically.

"I want to plan differently, so I can take time to take them to the next level since they're preparing to go to kindergarten the following year."

Advice, support and encouragement were the theme of the opening session of this year's orientation.

WCPS Principal of the Year, Charles B. Aycock High School principal Dr. Earl Moore, said that even though he has been an administrator for a number of years, his heart remains that of a teacher.

"One thing about teaching -- it's exciting," he said. "Don't ever lose your passion, and don't ever lose your love for children. You must love them to teach them.

"Always stay focused daily on what you do, and never forget the reason that you came into the job."

Moore likened the role to that of a doctor or surgeon, saving lives, albeit in a different capacity.

"Over the next weeks when the children come to your classroom, they're valuable and they're a precious commodity," he said "Treat them with extreme care, don't forget to love them. You teach them and you treat them as if they were your own."

The district's assistant principal of the year, Bill Joyner of Grantham Elementary School, assured the gathering that their presence in the school system is appreciated.

"These administrators are not out to get rid of you -- you're too hard to find," he said, evoking laughter. "We're here to help you."

Felicia Brown, director of human resources, is also mother of three children.

"I thought I could teach until I became a parent," she told the audience. "I appreciate everything that you're going to do this year. Even though I'm a parent, I'm not an expert in each area.

"We need you. We need you to communicate with us. We need you to tell us what we need to do to help you."

Mason also introduced Rebecca Bishop and Jenna McIntosh, beginning teacher coordinators -- the "secret weapons" for the program.

"We're in your buildings, working with the mentors who work with you," Bishop said. "We're very excited to start this year off. We know you're going to do great things, and we're going to support you."

The three-day orientation continues today with more networking and information opportunities, culminating on Thursday with a welcome teacher breakfast hosted by Wayne County Chamber of Commerce and a bus tour of the county.