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First Impressions: 1st-year teacher gains confidence as year goes on
World Language Academy first-year teacher Staci Nix works Friday with first-grader Andrea Contreras on a writing project after the class read the tall tale about John Henry. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

For first-year teachers, hitting a wall eight months into the school year is common.

However, for World Language Academy first-grade teacher Staci Nix, it's nothing another cup of coffee each morning can't fix.

"I'm tired, but I'm getting the hang of it now," said Nix, taking time to enter grades in the computer during her one-hour planning period. "I know what I'm doing now and I'm not so stressed out ... I'm having fun."

Nix began her career as an educator last fall at the school where she served as a student teacher. Her confidence level, she says, has progressively risen with the response from the students.

"You can teach a kid all these things, but until they show you what you have taught them, you don't really know what they're retaining," said Nix. "Now, they're giving that back to me and I'm seeing them produce. That's the most gratifying thing."

Her students just finished a section on informational writing. They were tasked with writing a paper on a famous person and his or her contributions to their respective areas.

The content Nix got back "blew (her) away."

"That's deep for kids," she said. "I tell you what, they blew me out of the water with it. They loved it."

But as spring break approaches and with summer right around the corner, her work is not quite done.

And with months under her belt, the first-year educator has learned a lot, but says that will never stop.

She already is compiling a list of what she likely will do differently next year.

"I have a list I've already started making on how to do things differently next year," said Nix. "They're not big things, but along the way I realized some things didn't work out the way I wanted it to - just little things along the way."

Tweaking and constantly changing approaches is what a teacher needs to do to stay ahead of the class. That ability sets teachers apart and goes a long way in a teacher's first year.

"Probably the biggest part to that is her head is not spinning now," said David Moody, principal of World Language. "She's getting her feet under her and starting to feel a lot more confident."

But the transition from being taught as a college student to student teaching to having control of her own classroom has been, so far, a constant learning experience for Nix.

"Being a classroom teacher is completely different," she said. "I'm doing grades now. I'm talking with parents, communicating with them. I didn't have all that when I was student teaching."

But so far, she has met expectations.

"She's been really good with communicating well with parents and families," said Moody, adding that the confidence Nix has built makes her a vital asset to a collaboration-oriented faculty.

"Probably the biggest (growth) is the fact she has a lot of confidence now. She's been incredible - not a typical first-year teacher. Now she has taken more of a leadership role."

Her education and student teaching at World Language, she said, gave her an idea of what to expect, but until she started, she couldn't fully understand what it means to be a teacher.

"You're taught how to deal with all those things, but I had to learn how to do all that," said Nix. "It's different from what I was taught in school and actually experiencing it."

So far, so good, and the new teacher is not so much looking back as she is looking ahead at what she can improve on.

"It's just interesting looking back so far," Nix said. "There were a lot of things that I though wouldn't come up, but I've definitely learned a lot and that will never stop."

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