Teachers new to parish schools, not to teaching

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; The majority of the 38 new teachers in the Concordia Parish school district this year really aren&8217;t so new.

They&8217;ve just relocated, bringing years of experience with them.

Brenda Sonia brings a teacher of the year credit from the New Orleans area schools. Rosetta Fleming has 26 years under her belt. And the teaching duo of Errol and Gloria Perez have a combined 50 years of experience.

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The credentials, let alone the smiling faces, had Personnel Director Ann Sandidge feeling pretty good at Thursday&8217;s new teacher induction workshops, she said.

The teachers spent Wednesday and Thursday together learning about the district, reviewing teaching tactics and preparing for the new year. The group will meet periodically throughout the year to continue professional.

And even though only a handful in the room were truly new to the profession, they all had one big thing in common.

&8220;We are all going into a classroom in Concordia Parish for the first time this year,&8221; new teacher Kirfed Watkins said. &8220;We have to decide what we are going to do.&8221;

Watkins, a social studies teacher at Ferriday High School, shared notes from group work that included five steps to success in the classroom.

&8220;Start with a smile,&8221; he said. &8220;Establish rules. Eliminate barriers between the students and us. Get close to the kids in the back. And organization.&8221;

Sonia reminded the group that their actions on the first day set the tone for the year.

&8220;A lot of kids like to test you and your first test is on the first day,&8221; said Sonia, who will be at Ferriday Junior High. &8220;Teachers, you are a model, and kids are watching. They are waiting to see what you do.&8221;

Fleming, who has moved to first-grade at Ferriday Lower from a school in Port Gibson, said she couldn&8217;t be more excited about her new assignment. Not only has Fleming crossed the river, but she&8217;s making a drastic grade-level change.

&8220;This is a challenge for me,&8221; she said. &8220;I&8217;m used to working with middle school kids. I&8217;m looking for the hugs and kisses, the spoiling and all that. I want to see them learn. I can&8217;t sleep at night because I&8217;m so ready for these kids. It&8217;s like a new adventure for me.&8221;

Allison Cupit is one of the truly new teachers, in fact she&8217;s starting a whole new career. Cupit has worked in the rehabilitation field for 11 years. She&8217;s leaving a job at Promise Specialty Hospital to work as a speech pathologist at several district schools.

&8220;That&8217;s been a fulfilling career,&8221; she said. &8220;But I&8217;m making a career change. As opposed to helping people at the end of their life, I&8217;m moving to the future generation. It&8217;s two extremes.&8221;

And for the Perez couple, a little permanency feels good, they said.

The husband and wife lost everything at the St. Bernard Parish home when Hurricane Katrina hit. They evacuated to the Miss-Lou and got part-time jobs with the school district. Errol Perez taught half a day at Vidalia High and half a day at Ferriday High last year. His lunch break and planning period were eaten by the stretch of highway between the two towns daily. His wife Gloria worked with the Reading First program at Vidalia Lower.

Now, they have a full year ahead of them. Errol has plans of grand experiments in his Vidalia High chemistry class &8212; he&8217;ll also teach physics and environmental science &8212; and Gloria has her own set of first-graders at VLES.

School in Concordia Parish starts Wednesday.