A Warm Welcome for New Teachers
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
AUGUST 8, 2018 – Some of the new teachers at the Education Building this morning came into teaching directly from college. For others, becoming a teacher is a step in a new direction.
Some of the new teachers are home-grown – the group included graduates of such high schools as Mount Tabor, Parkland, and Reagan. Others grew up in such states as New York. Three come from another country.
For all of the teachers, their first day of Core Academy was a reminder that each day can bring the unexpected.
The new teachers hadn’t been told that, as they walked down the sidewalk leading into the Education Building, they would be welcomed by principals, the superintendent, the chair of the school board, Central Office administrators, and others armed with such festive accessories as pom poms and giant sunglasses.
And, even if they had anticipated some form of welcome to the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County family, who could have possibly predicted that Instructional Superintendent Karen Roseboro would meet them at the front door and invite them to dance with her for a moment?
“For me,” said Dana Caudill Jones, the chair of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education, “it’s letting our new folks feel welcomed into the district.”
“It’s a big organization, but we really are a team and a family. We are a school district that really cares about our teachers, and I want them to feel that from the beginning.”
“Today, we are celebrating our beginning teachers,” said Judy Jones, a retired principal who now works as the school system’s Human Capital Specialist.
“We want them to feel the district support, to get them started on the right foot, and to let them know they don’t have to do this by themselves. They have people to help.”
Dominique Gillespie, who will be an EC (Exceptional Children) teacher at Gibson Elementary, was among the early arrivers.
Gillespie began her day at home both excited and nervous. She had no idea such a warm welcome awaited her. She certainly enjoyed it, she said.
Gillespie is among those who didn’t know from the start that they would become a teacher one day.
She headed off to Winston-Salem State University planning to major in political science. She already had experience working with young people with special needs and an internship at Winston-Salem State convinced her that was the path to follow. So she is earning her teaching certification at East Carolina University.
Robert Rose, who will be teaching art at Mineral Springs Middle School, spotted the line of greeters as he arrived. He appreciated the festive greeting.
“That’s fantastic,” he said as he came into the building. “I knew when I pulled up this was going to be a good morning. This is the energy I expect from Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, and I love it.”
Rose went to high school in Lincoln County before earning his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Kaitlyn Higgins, who headed to Appalachian State University after graduating from Reagan High, will be teaching at Mineral Springs Elementary.
“I have always wanted to be a teacher,” Higgins said.
For her, it’s about making a positive impact in the life of a child.
Higgins walked in at the same time as Melissa Saldiveri. Saldiveri’s desire to become a teacher came from the same place in her heart as did Higgins’.
“I just wanted to make a difference in students’ lives,” Saldiveri said.
Saldiveri, who will be teaching second grade at Gibson Elementary, grew up in New York and went to Long Island University.
One new teacher there this morning is already known by many in the school system.
Ken Leak is a long-time school system employee who has served as the chair of the Classified Advisory Council. Most recently, he has been the parent-involvement coordinator at Ward Elementary.
Leak is heading to Main Street Academy where he will be teaching social studies. He loves history, he said, and teaching social studies will give him a chance to focus on that.
“All the years of being a parent-involvement coordinator, I’ve basically been a teacher,” he said. “I come from a family of teachers.”
Leak already had a master’s degree in elementary education, and he will earn the additional necessary certification at Grand Canyon University. He will also be coaching the girls’ varsity basketball team at Parkland High.
Another new teacher who didn’t take a direct path to the classroom is Lara Crews, who was the librarian in the Children’s Room at the Central Library before becoming the Media Coordinator at Gibson Elementary.
Asked whether she has a favorite picture book, she said she particular enjoys Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus with word and pictures by Mo Willems. She likes the pigeons’ “I’ve got dreams, you know” attitude. The other books in the series are fun, too, she said.
Antonio Moses, who will be teaching fifth grade at Griffith, graduated from Parkland High School. Becoming an educator was always there in his mind but he wanted to experience other aspects of the work world first, and he went to work for Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
“I wanted to experience something different,” he said.
Moses has a bachelor’s degree from N.C. State University and is working on his teaching certification at N.C. Central University. He already has some experience with the school system, having worked as an instructional assistant at Griffith Elementary and, this summer, as an instructional assistant at Speas.
Moses, who is naturally an early riser, was the first new teacher at the Education Building this morning.
Another early arriver was Jessica Kangas who will be teaching English at Carver High School. Carver principal Carol Montague-Davis was among those greeting teachers, and she gave Kangas a hug when she came by.
For Kangas, it’s a new job in a new world. She is from New York and earned her degree at Buffalo State, which is part of the State University of New York.
“My family moved down here, and I decided to join them,” she said.
For her, teaching was always the career path she wanted to follow.
“I love working with kids, and I love literature,” she said.
Megan Taylor, who graduated from Mount Tabor, will be teaching eighth-grade English at Hanes Magnet School.
After earning a degree in communications from Salem College, she went to Appalachian State for a graduate degree that would provide her certification as a teacher.
Morgan Prince will be teaching French at Clemmons Middle. He didn’t learn French until he was in college at Appalachian State and is excited about giving young people the opportunity to learn it at an earlier age than he did.
Asked whether there was anything he wishes he had known in middle school, he said, it would be not to take the stresses of middle school life too seriously.
“Life moves on,” Prince said. “You will meet new people – go new places.”
By a little past 8 a.m. most everyone had checked in, found a seat, and started to get to know some of their new colleagues.
At 8:10, Roseboro asked everyone to stand up and dance with those who had greeted them as the group came entered the room to Sister Sledge’s classic hit “We Are Family.”
After the song ended, the greeters marched out chanting “Go, teachers! Go, teachers!”
Then it was on to the business of continuing to get to know each other and learning more about the school system.
After Marty Creech, the school system’s Director of Digital Teaching and Learning, asked for a show of hands to determine who was from here, who was from elsewhere in the state, and who was from another state, he invited people from other country to raise their hands.
The new teachers include one from Serbia, one from Ecuador and one from Brazil.
Exercises designed to get people to interact followed. Not surprisingly, people whose favorite food is pizza discovered that it’s not hard to find other pizza lovers. Later, groups of people who toothpaste brand is Crest and favorite sports team is the Panthers readily formed.
When Superintendent Beverly Emory welcomed the new teachers, she said, she wanted everyone to feel appreciated and part of the family that makes up Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.
Jennie Hawk, a first-grade teacher at Moore Elementary and the Teacher of the Year for the school system in 2017, was there with three teachers who were new last year.
When she invited them to talk about things that they know now that they didn’t know then, Julie Malmet, who teaches music at Speas Elementary, had some excellent news.
Teaching has proven to be even more satisfying than she expected it to be.
“One of the things I didn’t realize is how fabulous school teaching was,” Malamet said.
“I fell into teaching and love it.”