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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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New teachers get a head start

North Central High School’s new world history teacher, Gabe Medrano, grabbed a poster of U.S. presidents, a print of the pyramids and a textbook on the geography of continents.

“I have stuff, but I always need more to fill my room,” Medrano said Monday afternoon at the offices of the Spokane teachers union.

On Monday, most of the 200 new teachers hired by Spokane Public Schools for the new school year went through an orientation session capped off by a trip through the “treasure-trove” – materials handed off by retired teachers. It’s the first year the Spokane Education Association has organized the free supply event to give new teachers a boost.

“This is a neat idea,” Medrano said. “You can never have too many maps.”

Classes will start next Tuesday in Spokane Public Schools.

Much attention is given to parents and students preparing for school, but teachers have their own anxieties, too.

New teachers were introduced to mentors Monday and told of the district’s emphasis on collaboration among teachers. They also heard presentations on the resources available to them, including coaches, mentors, union representatives and other support services, such as the equity office.

Studies by the National Commission on Teaching show that after only three years, a third of certified teachers leave the profession.

Orientation is a way to help ensure that their first year in the district goes as smoothly as possible, said Jan Rust, director of staff support. “We feel it’s important to support our people,” Rust said.

Some teachers came with several years of experience. Others graduated recently and have taken their first teaching job.

Among the new employees were teachers born and raised in the Spokane area who landed jobs at the school they had graduated from, such as Jeremy Shay, 25, who will teach science at North Central.

“I enjoyed my time there,” Shay said. “I had some real influential teachers there.”

Now he’s one of them.

Shay sat with another new teacher, John Johnston, 60, who has three years’ experience and teaches math at Rogers High School.

His last job was in Orlando, Fla. He moved to Spokane with his wife, Sharon Johnston, who coordinates the online program for Spokane Public Schools.

“The thing that impresses me here is the level of support,” John Johnston said between orientation sessions. “You are not alone here.”

Loni Rossow’s first year of teaching was in Yakima, where she was hired the day before school started. She remembers struggling that first year, and her home was filled with unpacked boxes and an 18-month-old toddler.

“Things are a little more structured here,” Rossow said.

She’ll teach science at Ferris High School, and she said she’s looking forward to having a mentor who will help her iron out the inevitable rough spots.

Everything feels like it’s falling into place, Rossow said, explaining that she had found a home only five minutes from Ferris. Now if she could get her district password, she’d be able to soak up the curriculum guides, she said.

Before orientation ended, the newest teachers were told by a group of nine mentors about the idea of teaching students from the moment the bell rings to the moment they’re dismissed. Trainers said that, too often, new teachers develop great lesson plans but run out of time before fully covering the lesson.

Mentors also covered basic classroom control through signals that should be taught early in the year to quiet a classroom. Some teachers flicker lights; others ring a bell.

Larry Brodrick likes to simply say, “May I have your attention?”

He swears it works even with high school students once everyone has practiced a few times.

Once students get it down, teachers should “praise the heck out of them,” Brodrick said. “That’s what kids want more than anything else in the whole world.”

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