OTTUMWA — Going back to school can be exciting and nerve-wracking for students. It can be the same for the 29 new teachers and long time educators, too.
“In the morning on the first day, I’m always aware there are different levels of nervousness and anxiety,” Director of Secondary Education Marci Dunlap said. “Even though this is my 24th year in education, it’s the most nervous I get during induction because I anticipate those nerves and mental exhaustion.”
This week new teachers are preparing for the upcoming school year by engaging in lesson plans, learning about curriculums, assessments and district core values.
New Director of Elementary Education Lonna Anderson said they are working on how they can bring those district core values “to life.”
Anderson said every Friday teachers will have the opportunity to get together and work as teams to provide lesson plans for student and work to meet other educational needs. These teachers will meet and divide up according to grade level content teams. “They will talk about what they want students to know and do and bring examples of student work,” Anderson said. “They’ll talk about what went well and how they got good results. It’s really a professional development time among the teachers themselves.”
Dunlap added to Anderson’s comment, saying they use an acronym called PLC, which stands for Professional Learning Communities. “We expect the lead learners to be the teachers,” she said.
Attitudes, values, beliefs and curriculums aren’t the only important concepts to those in the school district — developing those relationships between teachers are as well. On Tuesday all new teachers went to Indian Hills Community College to have lunch together, with the hope of building connections.
“It was an opportunity for them to visit and drive to Indian Hills together to build relationships,” Dunlap said. “Veteran teachers in the district talked about how they still stayed in touch in people when they were inducted years and years ago. Hopefully we are giving new employees a chance to build relationships, too.”
Ottumwa High School At-Risk Intervention Coordinator Vern Reed agreed with the importance of teacher relationships, but also said student-teacher relationships are important to the success of schools and districts, especially those considered at-risk.
“Building a positive relationship with an adult in school or another setting can mitigate what’s going on,” Reed said. “It can be the one that helps a child work through these tough situations. Research and data are telling us that relationships have never been more important. That’s the number one focus of our program with every child we have and support them in their education.”
As the school year draws near and as more educators prepare for the first month, Reed and Anderson said they are confident in the new teachers as well as the growth of Ottumwa’s education system.
“The better we as a school district, the better we as a community are integrated together, the better chance our families and students have to write their future stories,” Reed said, “Having the new teachers here is where old and new teachers can come together to prepare for the future. Our community is also important. A community is a reflection of the school and the school is a reflection of the community. The more we work together to support the resources families need. Let us be the avenue to connect to research.”
“We all are just as excited about the first day of learning,”Anderson said. “These teachers choose education because they are passionate about kids. The staff want all students to be successful. Our role is to best prepare for the future.”