It’s a strange time to start a new job, especially in education.
Though schools around the world are navigating the fraught reality of reopening in different ways, one fact is constant: They need new teachers. Educators retire or move (especially around here, given the cost of living), and when that happens they need to be replaced.
This year, Teton County School District No. 1 welcomes 16 newbies into its teaching ranks. That’s about half the number that came into the district each of the past two years, but Superintendent Gillian Chapman isn’t blaming COVID-19. At least not entirely.
“We did have a small retirement class,” she said. “And then, you know, I think with the pandemic and everyone being somewhat isolated, it would be a difficult time to be job searching.”
Teaching jobs are usually posted in March or April, which, if you have somehow forgotten, was when life basically shut down. Even so, 16 men and women either took new positions or moved here to start with the district.
Some, like Roan Eastman, have lived in the valley for nearly three decades. Others, like Joseph Weakland, have been here just a few weeks.
Many bring a wealth of experience, much of it in the classroom, but also from settings like outdoor education. Tying their disparate backgrounds into one cohort usually happens over a few days of in-person training, but the coronavirus has upended the normal orientation procedure.
Some parts of the process looked the same, such as the welcome breakfast, but even that had to be altered. The breakfast is usually an all-staff affair, with principals from most of the district’s schools speaking. But this year’s was muted, with fewer people and much less socializing.
Obviously, missing out on an all-staff breakfast won’t ultimately define this group’s journey, but it will impact the culture that’s created. Chapman still remembers the people in her group the year she started with the district, memories of starting work together indelibly etched on her memory.
“I do think some of the connection is lost, but on the other hand, everyone is eager,” Chapman said.
Next week the 16 will be settled into their roles, balancing in-person learning and distance education, finding new ways to support students as they navigate the changes to their education.