LAFAYETTE — Preschool teacher Shanna Armentor is ready to begin her first job at Green T. Lindon Elementary later this month.
But on Thursday, her nerves mounted while she pondered the first-day tasks that set the tone for the rest of the year.
“I’m nervous about the first day. How do I tell them how to line up correctly?” Armentor asked.
Teachers seated near her assured her that her anxieties were normal.
“You’ll do fine. When you’re in your own classroom — it’s different,” said Barbara Brown, a 16-year teaching veteran who began teaching in Lafayette schools last September.
On Thursday, new-to-the-classroom teachers such as Armentor and new-to-Lafayette Parish teachers such as Brown sat side-by-side for the first of a two-day orientation offered by the district.
The Teacher Induction Program for Success orientation covered logistics like district policies and procedures, but also offered classroom management and effective teaching tips.
For first-year teachers, veteran educator Liz Breaux offered this: “You are the worst teacher now that you will ever be.”
The best way to learn to teach is by teaching, she assured them. But teachers won’t make much of an impact, if they can’t reach their students, she said.
“If you do not buy into that, you’re going to struggle,” she told the group.
Breaux is one of four support teachers in the district who work with teachers during their initial three years with the school system. She’s also an author and national presenter of effective teaching strategies.
Until about eight years ago, the district’s orientation was only half a day. Since it’s expansion and the addition of support teachers, the district has noted improved retention, said Louise Chargois, district curriculum and instruction supervisor. “We were losing teachers before that because they were overwhelmed or disenchanted by teaching,” Chargois said.
Superintendent Burnell Lemoine encouraged the group of more than 100 to ask for help when they needed it. The district wants them to succeed, he said.
“When you’re successful, we’re successful. The parish is successful,” he told them.
New teachers to the system must complete at least five days of professional development within their first year. The additional professional development days are more prescriptive with the teacher choosing which topic areas he or she may want or need to focus on, explained Chargois.
Alfred Monus has 20 first days of school behind him — but said he appreciated the professional development opportunity.
“They want you to succeed,” Monus said. “A lot of the times you don’t get parish support. You feel you’re alone.”
On Aug. 15, he’ll begin his new job with the system teaching algebra and advanced math at Carencro High School.
“The math I know,” he said. “How Lafayette Parish wants me to teach algebra, I’m not sure.”
The second day of the training held Friday is designed to inform teachers of specific content area and curriculum expectations.
On Friday, the new teachers will also meet with their support teacher. The seasoned educators provide feedback and work with new teachers on general management and instructional strategies, Chargois explained.
The district has four support teachers, who are each assigned between 70 to 80 teachers. The oversight is over a three-year period because “that’s the time it takes to affect change,” Chargois said.
“We wanted to transition them through the process and still provide professional development,” she said of the support teacher program.