About 200 teachers who are new to Horry County Schools began the New Teacher Academy Tuesday to learn at least some of the ropes particular to the district and their individual schools.
The two-day academy helps ease teachers into their new positions, whether they are fresh out of college or experienced teachers who are new to the district or changing the grades they teach. It is one way to assist teachers in being successful and, hopefully, happy within the district -- the largest employer in Horry County with around 5,300 employees districtwide.
Its certainly to our advantage to nurture and support the new employees that we have, said Teal Britton, HCS spokeswoman, who said there were 2,545 members of the districts certified teaching staff at the end of last spring, with 73 percent holding advanced degrees. By the time someone is acclimated to the practices of the system, you dont want to lose them. As with any business, the first few years for any employee are more expensive, and it takes a period of time to get their output up.
Britton said that annually, less than 10 percent of the certified teaching staff leaves the system. She said the attrition represents a host of circumstances, from retirements to relocations, and does not necessarily mean the person is leaving the profession.
This year, the district will employ close to 220 new teachers in total once remaining vacancies are filled, said Melissa Rutenberg, HCS director of human resources. Teaching assignments are based on how many students attend a particular school, and she said staff adjustments are being made even after school starts, depending on how many extra students register.
Rutenberg said usually the reason given when a teacher leaves is that they are moving out of the area. She said with Horry County being such a transient area and a tourist attraction town, the district sees many teachers leave because a spouse has been transferred, or because theyve moved here and then quickly moved away.
At Tuesday mornings academy session, all of the new teachers were brought together to meet district officials, network and take care of general human resources information. In the afternoon, the group was broken up by level elementary, middle and high school for group training sessions held at separate locations, and teachers will fan out to their individual schools on Wednesday.
New elementary school teachers gathered at Carolina Forest Elementary School where they were broken into even smaller groups by grade level. They rotated through a series of discussions led by district teachers and curriculum coaches who were asked to participate.
I would have volunteered to do it, said Julie Lovell, a curriculum coach at Forestbrook Elementary School who has been an educator for 28 years. I just love sharing, and I want them to know that teaching can be fun.
All teachers sat in on Lovells session on student engagement, where she emphasized that the relationship between the teacher and child comes first. She gave tips on interacting with students and had participants singing and on their feet, using arm movements to body map words to help kids learn.
You get 95 percent retention when you put [movement and music] together, Lovell told the group.
Kayla Lane and Kala Long sat in on one of Lovells sessions. The new teachers, who both graduated from CCU, said the academy experience was invaluable for them.
Weve been learning a lot of helpful tips, and it was great meeting the staff for the first time and seeing the superintendent, said Long, who will be a third-grade teacher at North Myrtle Beach Elementary School.
I didnt know what to expect, but so far, Ive been very impressed, said Lane, who will teach fourth grade at Pee Dee Elementary School. Its been overwhelming, but its also really exciting. We didnt just wake up one day and say, I want to be a teacher. This was chosen for us
You have to have a passion for it, the two said in unison.
In addition to the academy, all new teachers even experienced ones - are assigned mentors as part of the ADEPT program, an intensive state teacher evaluation process that all new teachers go through for two years, Britton said.
You dont learn everything you need to know in college, so you get a mentor to help guide you, Britton said. Its not just walking into a classroom to teach. There are so many other things learning the standards, acclimating to teaching models, the technology, working in grade-level teams, and a teachers day doesnt end when the buses pull out They will have probably an equal number of high points and low points because its difficult work.
The district has other layers of support, including learning specialists, who are experts in content areas and assist teachers with instruction or classroom management, Rutenberg said. Each school also has at least one instructional coach, and professional development goes on all year at both the school and district level.
In addition, the district has a collaborative relationship with Coastal Carolina University, Britton said. Teachers can participate at a reduced cost in district-supported classes and advanced degrees in partnership with CCU, and a training program also is held through the university and HCS human resources for assistant principals who aspire to become principals.
Rutenberg said larger districts such as Greenville and Charleston probably have similar set-ups to Horry, but that the supports in place definitely set the district apart from others in the state, as well as from those in other states.
I came here from Florida, and I was blown away by the support in the schools and at the district level, she said, and I dont mind bragging on our teachers. Weve worked hard to recruit the best.
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.