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First-year BHESA teachers anxious for school bell to ring

Morgan Adkins, at left, and Justine Amoroso are excited about the first day of year-round school which starts Thursday. (Below) Morgan and Justine work diligently to get their classes ready for the first day of classes at Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts.

Justine Amoroso had waited for this day for what felt like her entire life. For years she had gone to scholastic warehouse sales gathering materials for the dream of her someday classroom.

The New Jersey native decided to attend the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, entering its teaching program and fell in love with the area, so she made North Carolina her home.

She spent months student teaching at Sun Valley Elementary School waiting for the day when she would walk into her own classroom.

“Student teaching is fun, but it’s not your own classroom,” said the 22-year-old. “I was so looking forward to having my own class to work with.”

That dream became a reality when she was hired this year as a second-grade teacher at Benton Heights Elementary School of the Arts. Walking into her very own classroom on that first teacher workday, however, was a little daunting.

"You see a lot of white walls, and all the furniture is kind of piled up,” Justine said. “It’s a little overwhelming at first because it’s that clean slate and it does take a lot of decision making. It takes a lot to put together a classroom. And you want to make it welcoming for your students.”

Morgan Adkins, who student taught at Kensington Elementary, graduated from UNC-Charlotte’s teaching program a semester before Justine, so the two only met after they were both hired by Benton Heights principal Blaire Traywick.

She also remembers the feeling of being slightly overwhelmed when she too walked into her very own classroom.

“I’m very organized and so when I came into the classroom, with everything shoved into the closets and having to start from scratch, I got nervous and anxious about being able to be prepared for my kids,” Morgan said. “It’s coming together slowly but surely. Thinking about the first day of classes, I’m a little anxious but very excited.”

Justine felt pretty good about her stockpile of books and materials when she walked into the classroom. "I’d pick up a thing here and there, because it’s a lot of money to spend all at once, so taking some time over the years definitely helped,” Justine said.

But in spite of her efforts to build up those classroom supplies, when she began preparing her room, she realized she was still lacking some of the things she needed.

"You think you have everything, but in reality, you get there and you don’t,” Justine said. “The first day, my mom and I left here and went shopping and filled the whole cart with stuff I needed, that I didn’t realize I needed.”

Even though she still wasn’t able to get every thing she needed, Justine said she accomplished her main goal of getting her classroom ready for students. “As time goes on, I’ll get some of the other things I need, like a rocking chair.”

Fresh out of college, both Justine and Morgan say they are very thankful for the support of the more experienced teachers on the school’s second-grade teaching team.

“Coming into this team has been a great experience for both of us,” Morgan said. “You can just see their excitement. Every one of these teachers makes themselves available. They come to our classrooms. They ask if we have any questions. We can email or text-message them. They’ve been a huge help. It’s good to come on to a team that makes you feel like you’re already part of the team.”

“Having a team and working well with your team is definitely helpful,” Justine added. “They’ve been so supportive of us. They understand that we’re new teachers. They’ve come up to us and said, ‘We remember what it was like when we were new, so tell us about anything you need.’ Them knowing how we feel has definitely been helpful.

“It makes being a new teacher, setting up a classroom, doing open house, and getting ready for the first day of school so much easier, and not as overwhelming, because you feel like you’re not in it alone” Justine said. “You have five people with you, helping you.”

Principal Traywick said her school provides many opportunities for all staff new to BHESA to receive orientations, tours and staff development. 

“New teachers are given opportunities to build relationships with an assigned mentor, as well as their grade level or department, and the school at large through arts experience,” she said.

When the school bells ring at the year-round schools Thursday, Justine and Morgan will step into their respective classrooms and look into the eager faces of their 16 second graders.

They’ll then put to practice the training they received over the past four years at UNC-Charlotte. That training and the ongoing support of their teaching team promises to help make these two first-year teachers excellent at their craft.

Written by: Deb Bledsoe - UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Jul 21, 2015 by Deb Bledsoe

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