New teachers graduate to ‘not new anymore’|[5/11/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 11, 2006

Kellie Ray thought seriously about dropping out of dental hygiene school several years ago to become a teacher. She said she’s sorry she delayed the move.

Ray, 30, is now finishing her first year as a teacher in the Vicksburg Warren School District, a position she took after spending five years in a Vicksburg dental office.

&#8220I wish I’d been doing it for years,” said Ray, who works with autistic students at Vicksburg Junior High. &#8220I’ve definitely had some challenges, but absolutely love it. It’s the best thing I could have done.”

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She and the 27 other first-year teachers in the district were honored during a &#8220congratulations” reception Wednesday morning at the district office by organizers of the Teacher Induction Program.

The program, a first for the district, is aimed at improving classroom management skills and finding solutions to problems new teachers encounter.

&#8220Research shows the turnover rate for new teachers is pretty high. One out of two will leave within the first five years,” said Peggy Gouras, who leads the program along with Ann Sherard.

&#8220And the main reasons are lack of administrative support and classroom discipline problems,” she said.

So Gouras, a retired second-grade and GATES teacher, and Sherard, a retired third-grade and special education teacher, teamed up to offer support through mentoring first-time teachers throughout the school year.

&#8220They’ve been a great group. We’ve seen a lot of growth and success throughout the year,” said Sherard.

Salaries may have been a factor, too. First-year teachers with basic certification were paid about $32,000 this year, the last of five years in which phased state base rates were funded. The total is up 25 percent from the 1999-2000 school year.

Teachers participating in the nurturing program here range from kindergarten to high school coaches, Gouras said. The group has met regularly as a whole and in individual grade groupings, she said.

Kindergarten teacher Detra Erves, 24, said the Teacher Induction Program has helped her talk through problems.

&#8220It’s good to not go through that alone. It gives us a chance to talk about what we’re dealing with and figure out how to make it better,” she said.

Erves, who is teaching at Beechwood Elementary, said she loves teaching kindergarten.

&#8220I was an education major in college, but I never pictured myself with kindergartners, but it’s great,” she said.

Shelley Leyens, 26, is teaching seventh grade at Vicksburg Junior High – a big change from being a paralegal, her previous career.

&#8220I wanted something more active, and I love it. I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world,” she said.

Leyens said the hardest part she’s found about being a teacher is finding time.

&#8220I’m always doing something to prepare,” she said.

And while she’s looking forward to summer break, she’s already ready for next year.

&#8220I’m excited about things I have planned for the kids,” she said.

Superintendent James Price stuck his head in to the reception to congratulate the teachers.

&#8220Time has gone so quickly. It seems like just yesterday it was your first day of school,” he said. &#8220I must say, you’ve weathered the storm and made it through an unusually difficult year for our district.”

Price said he was proud of the jobs the teachers had done in their first year.

&#8220This is kind of like your graduation. Congratulations, you are no longer a ‘new’ teacher,” he said.