Learning the ropes|New teachers dip into new year with enthusiasm

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Just as the Vicksburg Warren School District saw 9,000 students head back to class Aug. 4, the district welcomed 28 brand-new teachers.

Students in nine schools, from kindergarten to high school, got to see some fresh faces at the head of the classrooms.

A look at three new teachers and their classrooms as the third week of school is in full swing:

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Camille Buxton

Bowmar Elementary


Camille Buxton counts lunch money while her students color in their daily journal. She and her 27 kindergartners are getting into a routine.

They begin their day with housekeeping duties, such as attendance and lunch plans. Afterward, with a bathroom break in between, students are called to the dotted carpet one-by-one and lessons begin. Today, it’s the days of the week, months of the year and numbers, up to 100.

“You have them when they are little, and you can inspire them to be great. My goal is to inspire my students,” said Buxton, 35. “It takes a special teacher to inspire kindergartners. They keep you on your toes, and they keep you laughing.”

Though it’s Buxton’s first year as a full-time teacher, she’s no stranger to the classroom. She began substitute teaching five years ago while working full time as a retail manager.

She realized during her first year of substitute teaching what she needed to do.

“I knew this is what I’m supposed to be doing, so I went back to school,” said the Alcorn State University graduate who has a degree in education and state certification.

Buxton’s classroom is decorated with colorful shapes and numbers and motivational words to remind students to be kind, to share and to be attentive.

Each of Buxton’s three children have attended Bowmar, with two currently enrolled.

“Everybody here has welcomed me,” she said. “They’ve helped me and they’ve given me things. I have a room full of things I didn’t have before because everybody has contributed.”

Brittany Fuller

Warren Central High School

Science skills, English

Brittany Fuller is back at her alma mater, teaching science skills and English. The 22-year-old graduated from Warren Central in 2005.

“It’s like deja vu, but now I’m on the other side,” said Fuller. “It’s really unusual. When Mrs. Swan was helping me with my lesson plans, I remember doing these assignments.”

Fuller, whose title is a long-term substitute, floats from one classroom to the next, teaching six periods.

Having graduated from William Carey University in the spring with degrees in biology and English, she’s qualified to teach the two subjects. However, teaching was not her emphasis. Her initial career choice was veterinarian, but she decided during her senior year to take another route.

“I realized I didn’t want to go through another four years of school,” she said. “Instead, I picked a profession that would put me in school every day.”

Being a recent college graduate, Fuller said, “I try to keep in mind that I’m not that far from where they are in school.”

During her second-period science skills class, Fuller lectures, complete with outline-style notes, on cell theories to 22 students who are already preparing for state testing in the spring.

When the third-period bell rings, she, like her students, packs up her books and heads on to the next class.

Susan Whittenberg

Vicksburg Junior High

Eighth-grade English

Things are finally settling down for Susan Whittenberg.

“My first day was kind of hard because there’s a lot to get used to,” said the 2003 Warren Central graduate. “But, once I got use to the chaos, everything has been smooth sailing.”

As soon as the bell rings, Whittenberg’s students begin preparing for state testing.

“We have a bell ringer every single day as soon as they get into class — and that’s going to help them on their MCT2 (Mississippi Curriculum Tests),” she said.

In addition, a quiz is given each Friday to top off the bell-ringer lessons. Her goal is to help students raise their scores on the mandatory tests.

“It’s a lot of accountability on the teachers,” said Whittenberg, 24, who in 2008 received a bachelor’s degree and in the spring a master’s in social studies education from Ole Miss.

In her classroom, she posts images of scientist Albert Einstein and musicians John Lennon and Yoko Ono on the walls to motivate her students.

As the bell rings, she tells her students, “Don’t forget to do your homework tonight.”

“It feels fun,” Whittenberg said, so far, before she heads off to her planning period.


To help new teachers get acquainted with the system, the VWSD has a mentor program in which the newbies are paired with retired teachers who observe them and offer advice. Also, a two-day, new teachers orientation was offered at the beginning of the school year.

The principal of each school creates the mentor pair based on similar personalities and subjects taught. Retired teachers are required to keep in contact with their new teachers for a minimum of eight hours for the first nine weeks of school. After that period, contact will vary based on the growth level of each new teacher.

“We put our resources where they’re most needed,” said Dr. James Price, VWSD superintendent. “If they (new teachers) need it, we’re there for them.”


Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at mchan@vicksburgpost.com