1:48 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

Life Lessons: First Day Of School For New Teachers

For about 127,000 students and 8,000 teachers, Monday morning marked the start a new year and new beginnings in Duval County Public Schools.

Life Lessons: First Day Of School For New Teachers
Credit Rhema Thompson

It's a year that will be full of many changes: a brand-new statewide assessment; a series of high-profile new districtwide programs--like teacher performance incentives; and widespread technology upgrades.  

Then, of course, there are new teachers trying to process it all. This year, George Teuber and Tiffany Allen are among that group. They are part of the inaugural class of the Jacksonville Teacher Residency Program, which began about two months ago.

The medical-residency style program takes science, technology, engineering and math professionals and grooms them to become long-term educators in some of the district’s hardest-to-staff schools. The 11 residents that make up the program will serve in Andrew Jackson High School, Raines High School, Ribault High School, Northwestern Middle School and Matthew Gilbert Middle School, which are all part of the district's so-called "transformation" region. The residency initiative is one of several being funded by a private pool of dollars, known as Quality Education for All.

"I have a coaching philosophy, but I don’t have a teaching philosophy, yet," Teuber said as he awaited the new group homeroom students.

Prior to applying to the Residency Program, Teuber received a degree in biomedical sciences and psychology from the University of South Florida. He said he found a love for working with kids while serving as a rowing coach with the nonprofit the Stewart's Foundation.

His coaching philosophy, he said, is "just try to connect with the students and I find that a lot of people tend to put themselves separate from the students, but really, we’re all kind of learning together."    

Teuber will spend the next year shadowing veteran biology teacher Allison Williams at Jackson High before taking on his own classroom for the next three years.

The morning in the class was spent getting acquainted with students and helping them get to know each other through a series of introductions and ice-breakers.

Nearby, at Matthew Gilbert Middle School, fellow resident Tiffany Allen got familiar with a smaller group of eighth graders with a presentation featuring pictures of sports, nature, planes and faraway lands.

Allen explained to her new students why she chose to use a picture of a plane to describe herself.

"The reason I have a plane is because the first time I rode a plane was in college," she said. " (North Carolina) A & T gave me the opportunity to ride my first plane...There were some programs there that allowed me to go to other places."

She pointed out another picture of a site in Barcelona, Spain. It was an opportunity made possible through school, she said.

"It's not just education that you can get from college. You can get the opportunity for somebody to pay for you to go. Somebody paid for me to go to Spain, San Diego, Detroit, all of that," she said.   

Allen will remain with the eighth grade Algebra class, led by veteran teacher Shawn Gomez for the next year. Gomez will serve as a mentor to Allen along with fellow new teacher Shawn Walker. Walker is also a resident in the Teacher Residency Program.

"This is exactly what I expected," Allen said. "I'm ready for the rest of the year to go on and for us to get into where we're teaching the students and seeing the understanding of where they're at. That's what I'm looking forward to."

Our Two Featured Teachers

Name: George Jeffrey Teuber

Age: 23

Hometown: Palm Bay, Fla.

Education: Currently, completing master’s degree in Medical Sciences at the University of South Florida.  Earned a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from USF.

Education-related activities:  Served as rowing coach for the Stewart’s Foundation and a patient advocate at St. Joseph’s Hospital. He also served as a designated site leader for a project with USF students and community teenagers providing financial education and assistance to families in need in the Tampa Bay area.

Teaching philosophy: “To teach, one must mold the delivery of material to the individual student.”

Name: Tiffany Ciara Allen

Age: 23

Hometown:  Portsmouth, Va.

Education: Received a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Engineering from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

Education-related activities: Served for several years as an instructor of 3rd through 8th grade students in the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program.

Teaching philosophy: “Whether differences are associated with race, socio-economic status, religion, sexual orientation, or disabilities, everyone is entitled to unmerited reverence.”

About the Program

The Jacksonville Teacher Residency Program was developed by Duval County Public Schools in partnership with the University of North Florida and the Jacksonville Public Education Fund as one of several privately-funded Quality Education for All initiatives aimed at improving the district's education talent pool. The medical-residency style program is modeled after the Urban Teacher Residency United based out of Chicago, and is the first to launch in Florida. The program recruits high achieving undergraduate math and science majors and places them in high-need schools for a total of four years—one year as a resident with an assigned mentor and three years as a teacher in one of 36 targeted, underperforming schools.

Cost: $1.6 million approved and funded through QEA; $5.5 million in total proposed.

This story is part of American Graduate - a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help local communities implement and identify solutions to address the high school dropout crisis.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.