Summer is over, at least as far as the teachers of Newton County are concerned.
Two-hundred and sixteen new employees arrived at Eastside High School as the Newton County School System held its annual teacher induction program on Wednesday and Thursday.
The new teachers, all filling certified positions, represent a new chapter in the NCSS.
As it stands, the NCSS, with almost 3,100 employees, is the largest employer in the county. Each year, the NCSS grows. With the addition of South Salem Elementary School this year, the county now has 21 schools.
Superintendent Steve Whatley spoke for about 20 minutes and introduced the county's administrative staff and each principal throughout the district.
"You represent a new start," Whatley said to the group of teachers. "This is a chance for you as well as our students to learn. Education is big business. It's important that we as professionals treat it responsibly and do the very best to deliver on what has been entrusted to us."
For many of the teachers in attendance, the two-day workshop is the beginning of a career. Many more are returning to education after a hiatus. Others like Carla Temple are seasoned veterans new to the county. Temple, along with her husband, who will also teach his first year in the county at Alcovy this fall, has lived in Covington for three years.
"I was waiting for the right opportunity to open up over here," Temple, who moves to Eastside after teaching for the past five years at Rockdale High School, said. "I'm very excited. This is my first year teaching seniors other than the first years I taught."
Temple went through the two-day induction program, but as a 15-year veteran, she's got her back-to-school routine down.
"I've been in my classroom for about two-weeks now," she said. "I like the aesthetics of my room to be more vivid and I like the passionate colors."
With her classroom decorating complete, including a hanging six-foot banner of her daughter Jennifer Nettles' band Sugarland behind her desk as a constant reminder to her students that hard work pays off, Temple is ready to get into pre-planning.
"I like to get here early so I have time to prepare for my students," she said.
Among the new teachers, nine are also new to the United States. Through the Global Teachers Research & Resources program, first year Associate Superintendent for Human Resources Dennis Carpenter has brought the new teachers to the county and says it is a great opportunity to test the program while acquiring qualified teachers.
"We did a great job finding some qualified teachers through the program," Carpenter said. "I feel confident they will do very well."
Additionally, four new principals take the helm of their respective schools this fall. Renee Mallard takes over at Indian Creek Middle School and Takila Curry was promoted and moved to Fairview Elementary to replace Holly Dubois, who is now the principal at South Salem. Lori Thomas replaced the retiring Carl Wilkins at Palmer-Stone Elementary and Roderick Sams moved up from Burke County to replace Joe Gheesling at Newton High.
Reigning Newton County Teacher of the Year Eric Adams gave spoke about his experiences as a Latin teacher at Eastside and made the crowd feel at home with his quick humor.
"Half of the time I don't know what I'm doing," Adams joked. "However, I do know I'm always really excited. I find that within about 10 minutes, my students think I'm crazy, but that's okay because you have to be a little crazy to love to teach Latin."
All teachers officially return to their respective schools today. For the next week, teachers will work on their classrooms, attend several meeting and prepare for students, who return on Aug. 1.
"You have to be caring and you have to be cheerful and I know there will be days where you are neither," Whatley said to the group of teacher, "but you've got to put on a smile and have to do your best for them (students). We have to approach each day like it's the day before the test, no matter what that test is. We're trying to pay it forward."