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New teachers bring energy, ideas

Administrators and veteran teachers support new teachers as they transition

Kent City — Catherine Cook has always liked the sense of community that comes from being at a small school.

 “After looking over the Kent City High School website and seeing the closeness of the students and staff I knew I had to apply,” Cook said.

Cook is one of 13 of Kent City Middle and High School’s 32 teachers who are new to the district this year, said Jordan Stuhan, principal of both schools in the small district. Teachers across the board last year were veterans, familiar with both their subjects and the Kent City community. 

This year, the district has intentionally focused on training and support as new teachers get involved and learn the ropes.

“They look after their new teachers. They’re making sure we have help whenever we need it.”

– Erik West, Kent City math teacher

The high turnover occurred after the district offered a retirement incentive last year, as well as one-year career exploration grants teachers received, Stuhan said. 

Also, Kent City Elementary School has an additional five new teachers, said Principal Pam Thomas.

Building a System of Support

Standard professional development is “even more important with new teachers,” Stuhan said, and the district paired new teachers with mentors in their buildings to help them learn the ropes.

 “The veteran teachers have been so awesome and have been a great support system. I think we have all learned a lot from each other over the past six months,” said ninth- and 10th-grade English teacher Catherine Cook. Cook also cited department meetings as helpful for finding support for her curriculum and teaching strategies.

“They look after their new teachers. They’re making sure we have help whenever we need it,” said Kent City Middle and High School math teacher Erik West.

New teachers have also found support from and are building community with each other. “I was excited because my last school district didn’t have many young people at all so it gave me a sense of empowerment knowing that we could band together and see change,” Cook said.

Getting Involved

Stuhan said new teachers have been “looking for ways to have a positive impact.” This has included getting involved outside academics through coaching, advising and helping with play productions.

Cook said jumping in has helped her find community. “I have loved attending sporting events and being involved in student government. I have been co-leading student government with another new teacher and that has really helped me get involved in events at school and the Kent City community.”

West brought a particularly unique form of extracurricular involvement with him to Kent City: his YouTube channel West Explains Best, which focuses on making math concepts accessible in short video formats.

“The administration is excited and supportive of new ideas and works to support them. I have always found that trust in my experience as an educator and open-door policy from administration to be most helpful, and I have found that at Kent City High School,” said Kent City High School social studies teacher Dwain Reynolds.

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Abigail Ham, SNN intern
Abigail Ham is an intern reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She is a junior at Calvin University. She is the managing editor of Calvin’s student newspaper Chimes and editorial assistant for the academic journal Pedagogy. She also enjoys creative writing of all sorts.

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