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New teachers welcomed to Rowan-Salisbury

By Susan Shinn

For the Salisbury Post

All teachers remember their first day in the classroom — the nervousness, the excitement, the eager students.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools Superintendent encouraged first-year teachers to savor the first day of school — and carry that memory throughout the year.

Nearly 83 new teachers — new to the profession or new to Rowan County — were honored Thursday morning with a breakfast at the J.F. Hurley Family Y. Rita Foil, the school system’s public information officer, said that number could grow to more than 100 by the time school starts.

One of those new teachers is Tiffany Owens of Hayesville, who will teach sophomore biology at West Rowan High School. Her mom and stepdad were both teachers, but she never wanted to be, she said.

“Then I was a teaching assistant in high school, and fell in love with it,” Owens said.

A teaching fellows scholarship to Western Carolina University sealed the deal, she said. The area, she added, feels a lot like home.

First-year teachers are welcomed into the North Rowan Middle School family, said Assistant Principal Meredith Williams. North Middle has 10 new teachers this year, four of whom are beginning teachers.

“We’re present in the classroom, providing daily feedback,” Williams said of the school’s administration. “We all share teaching responsibilities, so we’re there when someone needs help. You can’t get through your first year of teaching alone.”

Susan Heaggans certainly agrees. She supervises the beginning teacher program. Teachers have mentors, site support, administrative support, as well as support at the district level, and from retired teachers, she said. “They have to know they’re supported.”

These teachers have spent the week with Heaggans and others in training. Wednesday, Heaggans said, was “Trash to Treasure Day,” during which new teachers could go through materials donated by retiring educators.

“All of the cars were loaded,” Heaggans said. “It was a good day.”

Another first-year teacher who’s joining the West high family is Sydney Hyder of Asheboro, who will teach math. Hyder is a graduate of Catawba College, where her fiancé, Gregory Alexander, is an admissions counselor.

“I liked the area, and West picked me up,” Hyder said, “so Greg and I get to stay here.”

New to the area is Wendy Smith, who’s taught in public schools for 20 years. She and her husband recently moved from Atlanta to Salisbury with his job. Smith will teach eighth-grade science and math at West Rowan Middle School.

She interviewed over the phone, and visited with the students on the next to last day of school, she said. “They were so friendly and polite.”

She said she’s most looking forward to being with the kids, and “getting back to what I do.”

Tonya German was one of many principals on hand to welcome the new teachers. She is the new principal at Corriher-Lipe Middle School, having served as an assistant principal at Knox Middle School.

“I’ve been transitioning well,” German said. “I’m ready to get students in the building.”

Carly Opel will be teaching seventh-grade social studies at Knox. The UNC-W grad began her college career as an engineering major, but soon was drawn to teaching.

“People always told me I’d be a good teacher, and I always wanted to be with kids and make a difference,” she said.

Her main goal is to make social studies “not boring.” She plans to Skype with classrooms in other countries to show her students what their peers are like around the world.

Hailey Hildebran will teach English at Carson High School.

“My mom grew up in the area,” the WCU grad said. “A friend had nothing but good things to say about Carson.”

Elaine Spalding, president of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, and Dari Caldwell, president of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, both welcomed the group to Rowan County, and both said this is a community that supports education.

Moody shared several tips she learned in her years of teaching including:

  • Greet students at your door, not your desk.

“Lots of issues are solved if you greet your children at the door,” she said. “What you say on their way in sets the tone for the rest of your time with them.”

  • Look at the work you assign your students. Is there rigor? Are they collaborating? What’s the level of work?

Always try to integrate current events and other real-world examples in your classroom, she added.

  • Discipline with dignity, and don’t hold a grudge against students.
  • Use humor in your classroom.

“Enjoy it and have fun,” she said. “Sometimes, you just have to laugh and move on.”

Early on, Moody had a student who continually kicked a trashcan during class. She approached a veteran teacher about what to do.

“Move the trashcan” was the answer.

Moody also encouraged teachers to give students choices, take risks and encourage their students to do good in the world.

“This is a greatest job in the world,” she said.

Alexis Cowan, principal at North Rowan Middle, wrapped up the morning with an a cappella rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly.”

He urged the teachers to think about the lyrics from a child’s perspective.

I believe I can fly
I believe I can touch the sky
I think about it every night and day
Spread my wings and fly away
I believe I can soar
I see me running through that open door
I believe I can fly

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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