CRESTVIEW — The variety of new teachers at Crestview High School, and their enthusiasm, is exciting, Principal Bob Jones said.
“They’re quite a diverse group,” Jones said. “Some are fresh from college.”
Crestview High has increased its faculty with 21 new educators, replacing 10 who retired or transferred, and adding new teachers to comply with class-size laws.
Three of the new teachers are former Bulldogs. Computer technology teacher George Stakley III is following example of his grandfather, Sgt. George Stakley, who taught the school’s ROTC program. Sarah Glesenkamp has also returned to her alma mater to experience it from the other side of the teacher’s desk.
Geography teacher Matt Sanders is “part of the family now,” joining his parents, social studies teacher Stephanie Sanders and math teacher Jayson Sanders in the faculty ranks, Jones said.
“I just finished doing three observations, and these young teachers, gosh, they’re so enthusiastic,” he said.
Passion for teaching
In Danielle Phillips’ classroom, Jones observed as students “died” in waves during a vivid illustration of the Black Death, a plague that affected Europe in the mid-1300s. As Phillips called out colors to match cards students held, various segments of the classroom’s population sat down, indicating their deaths.
“The passion she has for what she was doing and the way she did all kinds of different activities in a 50-minute class kept the kids so engaged,” Jones said. “It speaks great volumes for the future of education —and the future of our children — that we have these (kinds) of teachers.”
In a third-period classroom, Tammie Dillon helped build her students’ enthusiasm for reading as they discussed the novel, “The Hunger Games.” Teaching exceptional education students adds an extra challenge, Jones said, but like Katniss, the book’s heroine, Dillon and her kids persevere.
“Excellent! That is excellent,” she said to a student, as she paced a classroom she decorated in spring green accents. The student grinned broadly upon his achievement’s recognition.
Like Dillon, math teacher Michelle Hokans, the school’s youngest teacher, is fresh out of college.
“I don’t have a degree in education. My degree’s in math,” Hokans said. “It’s fun to know what you’re teaching. It’s doing what you enjoy.”
Hokans realizes some students take her classes because they have to, but she said, “My goal is just to get them to think about math in a different way. A lot of them come in here and decide they already hate math. I want to get them to get a little excited about math.”
First-time teacher Sue Sorenson takes the same approach to teaching physics. The former Air Force electrical engineer has embarked on her new career.
“I kind of segued into teaching,” Sorenson said. “I really enjoy teaching. I enjoy physics and I enjoy teaching it and helping breed that next generation of scientists and engineers that we need so desperately.”
Wednesday was reading day in Jessica Rodriguez’s world history class. She had a broader motive than simply teaching a key period in history by having each student read segments from the lesson.
“I’m teaching history, but at the same time, I’m teaching them to write and to read,” Rodriquez said. “I’m teaching them skills they’ll use the rest of their life.”
Rodriguez, like Phillips, finds ways to make centuries-old events engaging and relevant. Sure, knights clanging around in armor are interesting. However, there’s a dark side to knighthood.
“We were talking about the worst jobs in history,” Rodriguez said. “Being a page to a knight was awful. After the knight spent all day in the armor, somebody had to clean out all the (human waste). It was the page. The kids are going to remember that.”
Relating to students
Crestview High’s new teachers can relate to high school students close to their own level.
“It’s an advantage and a disadvantage,” Hokans said. “They can relate to you, but they also think they can test you more.”
Teachers’ embracing technologies their students use is also valuable. Rodriguez frequently uses YouTube to find videos related to the lesson. Gwen Stefani’s song “Black Death” got the kids singing its “fleas on rats” chorus as they left the classroom. They thought it was silly, Rodriguez said, “but no one forgot how the bubonic plague spread.”
That sort of innovation excites Jones and convinces him he made good choices in his new hires, he said.
“You think, ‘Oh, we have these young teachers with no experience.’ But if my kids were still high school age, I would want my children in these classes,” Jones said.