(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) No matter the profession, the saying goes: the first year is the hardest.
And first year teachers said adding a pandemic to the mix doesn't make it any easier.
“It was definitely a challenging first year,”said Jason Harmon, first year teacher at Edison Elementary.
St. Joseph School District advisors said this school year has been one for the books.
“This has been unlike any other first year that anyone in history of education has ever had,”said Nancy Kirby, the curriculum advisor for the St. Joseph School District.
That's why the St. Joseph School District held an end of year party Friday where first year teachers got to celebrate making it through the school year. They were awarded with a free meal and some quality one-on-one time with fellow first year teachers they haven't seen since before spring break.
“Today is just a culmination of a year’s worth of hard work and the last four weeks of the module's virtual learning,”said Kirby.
First year teachers in the St. Joseph School Distrct had some homework of their own to do.
“Each week, they had reading and videos and assignments. Every Friday, we would meet, each curricular advisor, with 10-12 new teachers on a Zoom meeting and discuss what they learned throughout the week,”said Kirby.
The teachers recently completed their summer online institute and officially became the first group of first year teachers to take part in the district’s new teacher induction system. The program is part of the St. Joseph's School District's professional development plan for teachers.
First year teachers said they were just settling into their new careers when COVID-19 happened.
They said orientation didn't exactly include a how-to guide for teaching during a health crisis.
Teachers said transitioning to online learning was tough, but said not getting to say goodbye to their kids was the most challenging.
“That is the one thing I had a new teacher tell me. If she had known that the last day before spring break was truly going to be the last day, she would have handled that day differently,”said Kirby.
As for the big takeaway this year, first year teachers said, “be prepared if it doesn’t work, especially with little ones to be like, ‘okay, let’s do this now,’”said Monica King, first year teacher at Mark Twain Elementary.
St. Joseph School District advisors said all 48 first year teachers have a few more online modules in August and then they're starting the program with a whole new batch of teachers.