Suzanna Hodges, Suffolk Public Schools’ Rookie Teacher of the Year last year, gives words of encouragement to this year’s crop of rookies at a welcome breakfast for new teachers on Monday. Listening in are Superintendent Deran Whitney, center, and School Board member Enoch C. Copeland.
Suzanna Hodges, Suffolk Public Schools’ Rookie Teacher of the Year last year, gives words of encouragement to this year’s crop of rookies at a welcome breakfast for new teachers on Monday. Listening in are Superintendent Deran Whitney, center, and School Board member Enoch C. Copeland.

New teachers gear up

Published 8:47pm Monday, August 18, 2014

By Henry Luzzatto

Correspondent

With the new school year within sight, teachers and students at Suffolk Public Schools have been working hard to prepare themselves. Among those working hardest to get ready are the new teachers hired for the upcoming year.

At Suffolk Public Schools’ Welcome Breakfast for New Teachers, school administrators and teachers, as well as members of the School Board and City Council, welcomed the newcomers on Monday morning.

The breakfast was held in the cafeteria at King’s Fork Middle School, where food and words of advice were served to more than 100 new teachers.

The event began with welcomes by Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline C. Chavis, followed by an introduction of the various community leaders and government officials present.

School Board Vice Chairman Enoch C. Copeland, Vice Mayor Charles Brown, and Education Association of Suffolk President Wendell Foster each expressed their gratitude for the teachers.

“We want each of you to realize how thankful we are that we are able to have you as our partners,” Copeland said.

Each also expressed the importance of education to the Suffolk community, with Vice Mayor Brown referring to it as “very, very important,” to both him and Mayor Linda Johnson.

After the short greetings, the principals of each school introduced each new teacher to the crowd, with some cracking jokes about their colleges or experiences.

The event’s guest speaker, Suzanna Hodges, Suffolk Public Schools’ Rookie Teacher of the Year this past year, gave words of advice and caution to new teachers in her speech. “This year will be one of the hardest ones in your career, hands down,” she said.

The difficulty of the work only serves to make the job more rewarding, however, Hodges said.

“You are in for rough waters,” she cautioned, “but nothing valuable in life comes easily.” Hodges ended her speech on an uplifting note, telling the audience that, regardless of the difficulty, “You’re going to love it, trust me.”

The event’s final speaker, Superintendent Deran Whitney, offered similar sentiments, advising the teachers that mistakes and hardship are natural, but in the end, each teacher is “here to teach, here to inspire, and here to help the kids grow.”

The message of enlightenment through the struggle applies to the state of the school system as a whole. More than 100 teachers have retired or moved to another district since last school year. Because of this, a larger-than-usual crop of new teachers must adapt to the rigors of the school system.

The biggest challenge for the upcoming school year, said Deputy Superintendent Jacqueline Chavis, is getting the new teachers accustomed to Virginia state standards and resources.

In order to do so, each new teacher is assigned a mentor, and each spends time at new teacher orientation to become acclimated to the new settings.

Though the new teachers do not bring much in the way of experience to the table, they “are coming in with energy and excitement,” according to Chavis.

But in spite of the tumultuous change over the past year, there was an air of excitement among the new teachers.

“It’s kind of intimidating, but I’m excited,” said Sam Ward, who will begin her first year teaching at Creekside Elementary. “And I think I’m ready.”

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