New Teacher Academy offers support for new educators

Doctor Cynthia Maguire dressed as a wizard while demonstrating chemistry principles to youngsters
"Mistress of Potions" Cynthia Maguire, senior lecturer in TWU's department of chemistry and biochemistry, leads New Teacher Academy participants through a series of experiments. Photo by Michael Modecki.

A new school year begins in a few weeks, and for some, it means a new school, new classrooms and new students.

A teacher just starting out would, understandably, be nervous.

The New Teacher Academy at Texas Woman’s University, now in its fourth year, is designed to calm those nerves by delivering an extra measure of support for recent TWU grads in the first three years of their teaching careers. The 2017 academy, held in collaboration with alternative certification program iTeach Texas, took place July 18 on the university’s Denton campus.

“Our research areas focus on preparing teachers to meet the demands of the 21st-century classroom,” said Sarah McMahan, Ph.D., who, with Rebecca Fredrickson, Ed.D., began the academy in 2014. “We firmly believe that supporting our recent graduates into their first few years of teaching increases the likelihood they remain in the profession.”

Approximately 80 beginning teachers who will enter classrooms across North Texas this fall took part in a full day of workshops on classroom management, instructional strategies and more.

One session focused on incorporating STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and technology apps into classroom instruction.

“Many of the area districts contain Google campuses or districts, so we want to ensure that our graduates have more training in these apps and programs before starting their first year,” McMahan said.

One element of the STEM focus was a presentation by Cynthia McGuire, a senior lecturer in TWU’s department of chemistry and biochemistry and an official science wizard.

The “Mistress of Potions” led participants through a series of chemistry experiments where liquids froze or changed color. The performance was designed to make science fun and accessible for students of all ages.

The opening session began with guest speaker Bethany Weston, a 2016 TWU graduate, telling participants about her first year of teaching seventh-grade writing at Crownover Middle School in Denton. Weston said there were some “big personalities” in her class, leading to moments when she doubted whether she should be a teacher. However, by the end of her first year, Weston said, she learned that “Progress is success.”

“You may find that the students you care about the most struggle the most,” she said. “Don’t define your students by their (test scores).”

Daisy Lopez, who will teach fourth-grade English, Language Arts and Reading at the David and Lynda Olson Elementary School in Allen this fall, said it was helpful to get a firsthand account from someone who had completed their first year. Lopez, who knew Weston from their involvement in TWU’s Association of Texas Professional Educators chapter, found Weston’s words reassuring.

“She had some positive, wonderful things to say (about teaching),” Lopez said.

Recent graduates Amber Hale and Katy Richardson found the panel of area educators most helpful. The panelists — including administrators, teachers, directors and support services personnel — answered questions ranging from what to expect during an interview to school dress codes.

Hale, who will teach third grade at Brockett Elementary School in Aubrey, said it helped to hear what administrators do and don’t expect from new teachers.

“They don’t expect us to conquer the world,” she said.

Richardson agreed, saying the panelists encouraged new teachers to ask for help.

“They said, ‘If you need us, come get us,’” said Richardson, who will teach second grade at Chisholm Trail Elementary in Sanger. “I definitely will use that.”

Sarah Welch, who will teach fifth-grade math and science at Bell Elementary in the Denton ISD, said she benefited most from the classroom management session.

“They encouraged us to be solution-oriented,” she said. “If you focus on the problem, you won’t get anywhere.”

The recent graduates said the academy was an added benefit to the preparation they received in the teacher education program at TWU.

“I feel fortunate to come from a program where people treat us like a person, not just a number on a roster,” Welch said.

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Page last updated 4:41 PM, April 18, 2018