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New Teachers Eager to Get ‘Back to School’ Tuesday

 

Instructors from N.Y., Scotland Embrace F.C.

Class is back in session starting next Tuesday for all Falls Church City Public Schools, when 12 new teachers will be as fresh to the hallways as the students’ back-to-school sneakers.

The Sept. 8 return date is also true for Fairfax County Public Schools, getting back to the academic grind that same day.gillianT2headshot

Instructors from N.Y., Scotland Embrace F.C.

Class is back in session starting next Tuesday for all Falls Church City Public Schools, when 12 new teachers will be as fresh to the hallways as the students’ back-to-school sneakers.

The Sept. 8 return date is also true for Fairfax County Public Schools, getting back to the academic grind that same day.

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Gillian Thomson

Specifically for the Falls Church Schools (FCCPS), the 2009-10 year marks the 60th anniversary of the system. The six-decade mark was thematically celebrated at this year’s annual convocation held at George Mason High School Monday morning, starting with the location of the pre-ceremonial breakfast. Teachers and administrators alike swarmed the gymnasium prior to the program’s start for summer catch-up conversation over a lavish spread.

In her opening remarks at the convocation, Superintendent Dr. Lois Berlin, said the mealtime soirée was moved from its usual Mustang Café location, because the gym was representative of the school’s dated memories.

“The gymnasium was the social hub in the early days,” said Berlin, as black-and-white photos of sock hops in the same sports hall years ago flashed across the video screen in the background.

Among those in attendance Monday was Del. Jim Scott, School Board Chair Ron Peppe and Mayor Robin Gardner, all of whom offered positive sentiments on behalf of the school system’s achievements.

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Maureen Warfield

“The City Council is dedicated to the schools; we work hand in hand with them. The school system is not only good for the kids while they’re in class, but when they’re out of class as well,” said Gardner.

She went on to note the desire FCCPS teachers have for the work they do, giving her personal thanks. Gardner has two children of her own, a son and a daughter, enrolled in the system.

It was on to the introductions as the principals from each of the four F.C. schools greeted new and returning teachers.

The furthest-traveling transplant, 27-year-old Gillian Thomson joins Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School (MEH) this year, coming all the way from Fife, Scotland through a Fullbright educational exchange program. Thomson has swapped places with MEH’s Lisa Mueller, who is currently in Scotland representing Falls Church.

“I’m living in her apartment here and she’s over there teaching my kids, so it’s like we’ve traded lives for a bit,” said Thomson.

Thomson, who’s been teaching for five years in her native country, will teach four classes of MEH fifth graders language arts, science and social studies, noting the biggest changes from Scotland being the number of classes she’ll be teaching and the limited subject matter.

“Back in Scotland, I was teaching one group of students, but they stayed with me the whole day and I taught them every subject, so it’s quite a big difference,” said Thomson.

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Alex Aman

The States, however, aren’t that new to Thomson. She previously worked at children’s camps in Massachusetts as a horseback riding instructor. She also worked at another children’s camp in Africa for six months.

“I’m hoping to bring a different perspective, but also want to learn from the teachers here so I can bring that to my students back home,” said Thomson.

Joining Thomson at MEH is Maureen Warfield, 25, from New York City. Warfield is one of three new FCCPS Spanish teachers this year, though she taught the same subject in Brooklyn, N.Y. to the same grade level.

Looking back, Warfield said she was the kind of student who loved school, though having students of her own taught her that not all kids enjoy academics.

“Teaching in New York especially opened my eyes to the fact that not everyone loves school the way I did,” said Warfield, who called her teaching style “positive and energetic,” saying her excitement about the subject matter tends to rub off on her pupils.

Also new to the team of Spanish teachers this year is 25-year-old Ashley DeSesso, who’s coming to Thomas Jefferson Elementary from Spotslyvania, Va. where she taught kindergarten through fifth grade for two years.

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Ashley DeSesso

“I like working with kids early on because they have such a thirst to learn, and a new language is a very cool thing to them,” said DeSesso, who’s teaching preference revolves around group work and cooperative learning because she knows the impact those acquired skills will have on kids once they enter the workplace.

“I was very much the quiet, shy kid when I was in school, which is kind of funny since here I am speaking to a class full of students each day,” said DeSesso, who went on to note the teachers she remembered most were the ones who made an effort to get past her timid exterior by asking how students’ weekends went and showing they cared.

She called the atmosphere in Falls Church “very friendly,” and said that everyone has been welcoming and eager to meet her.

Alex Aman, 24, knows the feeling. Though he may be new to teaching for FCCPS, he’s had time to get used to the classroom vibe, working as a paraprofessional at Mt. Daniel Elementary School for two years. This year, Aman starts at Mt. Daniel full time as an ESOL Family Literacy instructor, where he will teach non-native English-speaking students who need extra support in their regular classes. However, working with a mixture of generations, he will also be teaching students’ parents during the evening.

“I’ve always loved language,” said Aman, who studied at the University of Southern California, as well as UVa. Forming more and more friendships at Mt. Daniel, he soon came to realize the large amount of immigrant families who needed support, which he said was “exactly why he entered into this field.”

An admitted bookworm as a kid, Aman especially enjoys using books to help struggling students with their English.

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Carey Cannon

“Hopefully, I can shape where they go from here and who they grow up to be,” said Aman.

Like Aman, Carey Cannon was also a paraprofessional for FCCPS before beginning full time this year as a science teacher at George Mason High. Cannon will teach 11-12 graders geophysics.

“With older kids, I think there’s a higher expectation for what they’re able to do with their skills. How the earth’s processes work include a lot of topics kids encounter in their daily lives, so it’s easy to keep them engaged,” said Cannon.

She’s especially “excited to help [junior and senior students] decide where they want to go next,” recalling memories shared with her own teachers at that stage in life.

“I remember high-fiving my government teacher when I got into college,” said Cannon, who graduated from Langley High School in McLean. “The teachers I remember the most were the ones who were interested in where my life was going.”