Starting teachers find support from peers

COLUMBIA CITY — The overwhelming shock of entering a classroom as the one in charge of student learning is being lessened thanks to a program in Columbia City’s schools.On Monday, at a work session of the Whitley County Consolidated School Corporation’s Board of School Trustees, Michelle Urban, an eighth-grade science teacher at Indian Springs Middle School explained a program designed to help rookie teachers.The Beginning Teacher Program, headed by Urban, was presented to the board Monday night.According to Urban, there are 14 Columbia City teachers in the program, which takes a new teacher through his or her first two years.“The goal of our program is to basically be there for them,” said Urban. “We have a huge gambit of topics we have to cover in order to do that.”According to Dr. Patricia O’Connor, Superintendent, the state requires a residency program for all new teachers, which is required to take them through their first two years.She said the program Urban heads up follows state guidelines but is customized to fit teachers in Columbia City.“The program was developed by us,” O’Connor said. “I’m very pleased we were able to develop it and Michelle has done a wonderful job with it.”O’Connor pointed to the key benefits to the program.“With the help of this program, they (the teachers) will be successful in the classroom with their students and they will stay in teaching,” O’Connor said.Urban told the board that new teachers generally go through six phases when they begin their new jobs — anticipation, survival, disillusionment, rejuvenation, reflection and back to anticipation.Among the topics covered by the program, classroom management and student learning top the list.The teachers meet once a month after school and rotate to locations throughout the district and also meet for a half day each trimester.Meetings involve a lot of group discussions, which Urban says helps new teachers develop their skills as they see what some of their peers are doing in their classrooms.“We’ve gotten a lot of problem-solving done both individually and in our groups,” she said.Also presented at the work session was a report on kindergarten assessments by Mary Raber Principal Julie Turpin.School Business Manager Tony Zickgraf told the board that a proposed change in the school corporation’s print shop and courier was being considered.Zickgraf suggested to the board combining the two jobs into one. He said the corporation could save $23,678 annually with that adjustment.The board also talked about the possibility of donating the land that Burnworth Pool currently sits on to the city of Columbia City.Several board members said they’d be in favor of the donation if the board knew specifically what the city had in mind in terms of the future of the pool.