SEBRING — They came from out of state - including Michigan and Indiana - and from Miami-Dade, Monroe, Hardee, DeSoto, Hendry and Highlands counties to be teachers for the School Board of Highlands County.
As the district continues to fill its teaching vacancies, about 100 newly hired educators attended the first day of the new teacher orientation Wednesday at Sebring Middle School.
Many of the new hires taught in other counties, some have made career changes, while others are recent college graduates.
Karma Zelenenki, Melissa Reeves and Jennifer Layport went to college together and are recent education graduates from the University of South Florida.
Zelenenki, who will be teaching kindergarten at Woodlawn Elementary, said: “I am excited to be with the little ones.”
Reeves, who is from Avon Park, will be teaching first-grade at Sun ‘n Lake Elementary School.
She worked in medical transcription for 25 years.
Layport, who is from Sebring, will be teaching kindergarten at Sun ‘n Lake Elementary School, too.
After graduating in May 2014 she wanted to teach in Highlands County, she said.
“I was born and raised here; I am raising my kids here; my family is here so it’s a great place to be,” Layport said.
What is special about Sun ‘n Lake Elementary?
“It’s the best school in Highlands County,” Layport responded.
Superintendent Wally Cox said he was excited to welcome about 100 new teachers.
“I feel blessed that they have chosen Highlands County schools to come and teach at,” he said. “We still have about 20 vacancies that we are still continuing to work on, but we think by the start of school we will be ready to go.”
The first day of school for students is Aug. 20.
Human Resources Director Vivianne Waldron informed the new teachers they would be receiving training on Friday on the Danielson Framework for teachers, including the four domains (planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction and professional responsibilities) and the 22 components of great teaching that they will be measured on.
Every teacher will receive the latest edition of Harry Wong’s “The Classroom Management Book.”
Cox thanked the teachers for “agreeing” to teach in Highlands County.
“We have about 100 of you; We still need a few others; If you have friends that would like to come to Highlands County, please encourage them,” he said.
As he does every year at orientation, Cox invited all the new teacher to introduce themselves and tell where they came from and where they will teaching.
After two said they had been teachers in Hardee County and another said they had taught in DeSoto County, Cox commented, “I have done pretty good from Hardee and DeSoto.”
The next teacher was also most recently from a Heartland area county.
Harry Maloney said he was originally from New Jersey, but taught one year in Hendry County,
He will be teaching fifth-grade at Woodlawn Elementary School.
The district’s new teacher orientation has been expanded from one to two-and-a- half days.
The longer orientation will include crisis intervention training and performance evaluation training. Previously, that training was conducted in August or September, which meant the new teachers missed time in the classroom.