Our new TCU educators have certainly hit the ground running to begin the 2020-21 school year.

Although they are all unique in their backgrounds and experiences, our new staff has one thing in common: They are ready and willing to rise to the challenge of the school year! Our district welcomed 14 new certified educators to our PreK-12 staff this fall.

During new teacher workshops our new educators reflected on the community tours and the opportunities to connect with other staff as highlights from the week. As we boarded the bus to visit each community and school building, we were met by the local leaders and business representatives. Haley Fogarty, Lonsdale Social Counselor, mentioned that she, “loved learning about the history and culture of our schools and communities.” A highlight for Heather Nelson, High School English teacher, was meeting other staff members. “Everyone is very proud of working here and of the communities that make up the district.”

As the teacher workshop was underway and our district determined we would follow a first-12th grade hybrid model, our new staff members embraced the challenge with the support of returning staff. Fifth-grade Lonsdale teacher, Melanie Ruehs noted, “Everyone has been incredibly welcoming and helpful!” While second-grade Le Center teacher, Lauren Sylvester, and fourth-grade Montgomery teacher, Jared VanDorpe both referred to their grade level teams being extremely collaborative as they prepare for the year. Lexie Franek, an Early Childhood educator, said, “The support was and still is endless from the staff at TCU.”

Despite hybrid learning being a new model to everyone, our new and returning educators have remained flexible and have experienced some early successes. Several educators are connecting students at home with students at school, learning to navigate technology at deeper levels, utilizing our 1-1 devices and digital platforms in new ways, finding more engaging ways to teach students, exploring learning opportunities with our new K-6 math curriculum, and adjusting schedules to increase educational opportunities.

Reuhs commented on something that has gone exceptionally well during the hybrid model as, “getting to know my students better and I can keep closer tabs on where they’re at academically.” This sentiment was echoed by many, including Sylvester who said she has been able to give more one to one time with each student. As far as students go, staff members have been impressed with their flexibility with learning in this model. In addition, Fogarty said it has been impressive to see students “adjusting to masks, hand washing, and following our new safety and cleaning procedures.”

Looking ahead, our new educators had another thing in common. They are all looking forward to supporting and seeing growth as students also rise to the challenge this year! Our new educators are ready to embrace the changes we might experience and as VanDorpe says, they all are glad to “be a part of the TCU community.”

Jenny Wallskog is the Tri-City United School District teaching, learning and mentoring coordinator for grades K-6.

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