By KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
Rutherford County Schools
Edie Emery loves a good story.
It’s why she spent 20 years in a classroom teaching English and Language Arts before becoming an ELA Instructional Specialist five years ago.
Last week, she addressed more than 150 new teachers with Rutherford County Schools by telling them, “I know each and every one of you has a story.”
As part of her year-round duties, Emery coordinates the annual Academy to Support, Sustain and Induct Successful Teachers, more commonly known as ASSIST. The two-day professional development is encouraged for all first-year teachers and those with less than three years of experience.
Attendees took part in various sessions that help prepare teachers for their first ever day of school as a full-time educator. Keynote speakers – Melissa Dickson and Kim Campbell – and those leading breakout sessions – Dr. Kay Martin, Lisa Bogle and Barbara Powers – provided tips and tricks to getting their respective careers started.
“You are beginning a career in what I consider the greatest profession in the world,” Emery told them, before concluding, “I know each and every one of you has a story — a story of the journey that you have taken to be in the seat you are sitting in right now.
“You have earned the chair in which you sit, but I also want you to think of it as a privilege and an honor to be chosen to be part of a child’s life this school year. Don’t ever take that for granted.”
Rutherford County Schools certainly doesn’t take it for granted.
The district has been providing the ASSIST workshop for the past 15 years.
Rutherford County is one of the only districts in the state to offer this type of opportunity, and according to Emery, it’s another way of building teacher retention. In addition to ASSIST, the district also provides new teacher orientation and assigns a mentor to them at their new school.
Alexandra Piper, a first-year K-2 CDC instructor at Buchannan Elementary, admitted she didn’t know what to expect when she arrived Thursday morning.
“It’s one thing learning how to do stuff and then there’s doing it,” Piper said midway through the first day.
One particular tip she learned had to do with engaging her entire class with an energetic yet fun cheer. This particular improvisational exercise called for her and students to pretend like they’re driving a large truck and reach up and pull an imaginary horn, while the entire class shouts, “Woot, woot. Good job.”
“I thought it was really cute and interactive,” Piper said.
She added, “I’m more at ease, but the only thing I’m worried about is how to start a whole school year? How to set everything up?”
One teacher who’s already had that experience is Stephanie Norton.
Norton is going to be a second-year math teacher at Whitworth-Buchannan Middle School.
“I probably have a little bit of a different perspective,” she said. “I had heard from some people who had attended last year that it was going to be really good for classroom management.”
Norton said she had wished she had known the importance of breaking her lesson plans into timed sections.
Garrett Doo, a newly hired K-12 music teacher at Eagleville School admitted he feels the least comfortable planning for K-5, and so he spent both days of ASSIST workshopping alongside fellow elementary school teachers.
He arrived at Siegel Middle School, where the workshops were held, expecting to learn “tips for new teachers and a few presentations on best practices.”
His expectations were met.
“I think having this so close to when school starts helps get me back into the mindset … of getting my thinking on the right track,” Doo said.
Norton, Doo and Piper were just three of the more than 150 teachers taking part in this year’s ASSIST who learned that teaching is about cultivating and maintaining relationships.
“The relationships you will build with your students, your colleagues, your administrators, your parents and your school community … will look different,” said Emery, when she opened the gathering by addressing all the attendees as one group, “but they are all important.
“It is our goal here in Rutherford County to start you off in the most positive way as you continue writing your teaching story.”
PHOTO / Edie Emery
Following a two-day workshop for new teachers in Rutherford County, a group of first-year teachers leave Siegel Middle School with some supplies that were made available to those who completed this year's Academy to Support, Sustain and Induct Successful Teachers.