Whether they are new to the classroom or just to HISD, nearly 1,000 eager educators gathered at the Kingdom Builders Center on July 28 to begin the New Teacher Academy in anticipation of the coming school year.
The week-long workshop is held every summer to give the district’s newest recruits a head start on their first day of school—and this year, the focus is on using one’s special talents and stories to forge authentic connections with students.
“The classroom is where relationships plus content equals game-changer,” said Assistant Superintendent of Professional Development Lance Menster. “You’re beginning a fantastic journey, and you’ve picked the perfect place to do it.”
“Students have to believe that you care about them,” added keynote speaker Dr. Pedro Noguera, who serves as a professor of education at New York University. “They will accept you if you are genuine and sincere, but they will reject you if you are phony. So what do you bring to this work that is going to be yours? Maybe it’s that you have a great sense of humor, and can bring lightness to the lessons. Whatever it is, if you can find that, it can lead to a career that sustains you and just gets better over time.”
Jasmine Creeks, a first-year math teacher who will be working with fifth-graders at Jefferson Elementary School this fall, cited her background in the public mental health sector as a motivator for her move to education. She went through HISD’s Alternative Certification Program in the hopes of reaching students before they ended up in that system. “I was a caseworker with MHMRA, working with high-risk youth,” she explained. “My entire caseload was on probation.”
Vivian Williams, a first-year teacher who will be working with first-graders at Woodson K–8 this fall, said she will bring a passion for education to the profession. “I always had it in my mind that I wanted to be a teacher,” said the Austin High School alumna (Class of 2010). “I knew it in the fourth grade, and I knew it even more after four years in the magnet program for teaching professions.”
“The teacher is the most important person in the school system,” said Dr. Noguera. “Your job is to find ways to make students want to learn; to make your lessons so compelling that even a student who comes in afraid or intimidated begins to change. When you engage students so they are eager to learn, that’s when you know you are effective. Good teaching is like good cooking; it makes you want more.”
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