Facing tough budget cuts in schools, few would-be teachers are finding new jobs.
More than a handful were able to land spots at Gainesville City Schools this year, taking spaces left open by teachers who transferred, retired or left the system.
On Thursday, 36 new teachers attended an orientation workshop before heading to their new classrooms. They met central office staff, signed up for benefit packages, toured their schools and talked about major challenges beginning teachers face.
Jamey Moore, director of standards and assessment, pointed out the top five concerns teachers listed in a survey — classroom discipline, motivating students, dealing with individual student differences, assessing students’ work and building relationships with parents.
“This was a guide for what’s to come for the rest of the year,” said Elfreda Lakey, assistant superintendent of human resources who led the day’s orientation. “Assessment, especially, is major for all the schools. Our system is driven by numbers, so the teachers have to know where the students are when they come into the classroom at the beginning of the year and where they need to go.”
After the orientation, the teachers returned to their schools to meet department heads and find their classrooms. Gainesville High School administrators hosted a catered luncheon for the teachers and assigned teacher laptops.
“This has been a dream because I can use my degree,” said Benita Sanders, the high school’s new media specialist. Previously a teacher in Walton County, Sanders is thankful to have the new job. “I guess we got lucky. (My husband and I) prayed about it, and we were fortunate.”
Sanders is looking forward to working with the community and inviting professionals to speak to students. She plans to change the layout of the media center, creating lounge seating and a room with coffee so students can do homework and feel comfortable in the library setting.
“I’m working on a grant, but we’ll still do most of the plans, regardless,” she said.
Derrick Jones, a first-year biology teacher, graduated from East Hall High School and is happy to snag a job in Gainesville after attending North Georgia College & State University.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know the new students and all the challenges they bring,” he said with a laugh. “I feel very lucky and grateful for my real-world student training through North Georgia College.”
Jones worked on lesson plans Thursday, hoping to complete his ideas for the entire semester.
“I’ve got to be ready for everything,” he said. “As a first-year teacher, I’m worried about the unexpected because you just never know what will happen in the classroom.”
A fellow NGCSU student, Charlie Sea, will teach American history and American government at the high school. Sea is still pursuing his master’s program as he starts his first semester as a teacher.
“I got a call in the middle of my classes about a teacher leaving, so I dropped what I was doing and came here,” he said. “I found the needle in the haystack. I only have three more classes to take before I complete my degree.”
Sea wants to push practical application in the classroom and wants to involve students in local elections and politics.
“I’m not one for standardized tests and plan to do a lot of hands-on exercises and simulations,” he said. “Right now I’m working on lesson plans, seating charts, discipline plans and getting the room ready. I’m doing everything from scratch.”