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Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Hillsborough welcomes hundreds of new teachers

TAMPA — Martini Gibbons has spent the last three days learning about class management and ethics, how set up her classroom to minimize her steps throughout the school day, and how to join the local teachers union.

It’s all information that will help her jump-start her new career as a teacher.

“I’m excited, but it’s extremely nerve-wracking,” said Gibbons, 27, who will teach students who are deaf and hard of hearing at Lake Magdalene Elementary School. “You want to make sure you start off on the right foot.”

Gibbons and nearly 1,000 others packed into the auditorium at Armwood High School on Wednesday for an official welcome to their new jobs with the Hillsborough County school district. It was the third day of a four-day mandatory orientation that 982 teachers are attending this week.

About 75 percent are new to the profession, district spokeswoman Tanya Arja said.

Orientation wraps up today, and next week, the new teachers will attend training sessions on their particular subject areas, including curriculum and standards.

The students’ first day of school is Aug. 19.

One of the biggest sources of anxiety for new teachers this year is the new Florida Standards Assessment — a test aligned to the state’s tougher new education standards that students will take for the first time.

The Florida Department of Education created a website with sample questions this summer so teachers, students and parents can get a feel for what the test might be like.

Kayla Veley, a 27-year-old new third-grade teacher at Lake Magdalene Elementary, says the standards don’t worry her, but the test does.

“It is scary,” Veley said. “It puts so much on the kids.”

Even so, Veley was comforted to hear about the support available to Hillsborough teachers throughout the year, including a mentoring program for new teachers.

So far this week, the new teachers have attended sessions about teaching a classroom of diverse students, saving for retirement, the district’s teacher-evaluation system and where they can get supplies for their classrooms.

“There’s nothing more important to student success than what you do every day,” Superintendent MaryEllen Elia told the teachers. “There is no place you won’t have the resources you need. I believe with all of my heart you’re going to enjoy the camaraderie and development of your craft we provide for you.”

As part of Hillsborough’s 5-year-old evaluation system — Empowering Effective Teachers — new teachers this week will be paired up with mentors who will evaluate them and help them navigate through their first year.

The pairs meet for 90 minutes each week, said Shannon Bogle, the district’s supervisor of teacher training.

“The idea is to help them become a more effective teacher,” she said.

In Hillsborough, 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation comes from test scores; the rest comes from observations by the principal and peer evaluator.

Heidi Shuman, a new second-grade teacher at Temple Terrace Elementary, said new teachers are at an advantage starting their careers during the first year the standards will be fully in place. The standards — based on the Common Core State Standards adopted by most states — are designed to teach students to think deeper and more critically.

“I feel for the teachers who have taught for a number of years and have to change their way of thinking,” said Shuman, 31.

Natalia Rohrbacker, 25, taught in Pasco County for three years before switching to Hillsborough, where she will be second-grade teacher at Temple Terrace Elementary. She switched for several reasons — more pay, more training and closer to home.

“They think professional development is huge,” Rohrbacker said. “I believe in that philosophy.”

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Twitter: @ErinKTBO

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