Monday will ring in a new school year for Richmond County students, and both new and veteran teachers have been busy preparing for the big day.
At West Rockingham Elementary School, located at 271 W. U.S. Hwy. 74, Rockingham, many teachers gathered on Friday to make last-minute adjustments to their classrooms and lesson plans.
Cathy Albert, 45, will make the shift from teaching first grade to second grade this year at West Rockingham.
“I’m excited and nervous,” Albert said as she sat at a miniature table in her classroom. “Every year something changes — that’s the fun of it.”
The Cordova resident has been teaching first grade for eight years, with five of those years spent at the now closed Hoffman Elementary School. Albert is originally from the Micronesian island of Pohnpei, but she also studied in Honolulu, Hawaii, and at Pembroke before moving to Richmond County.
She credits her love of teaching to her own children.
“When I had my two children, just seeing them learn and instilling a love of reading in them — I want to do that with all of them,” she said.
New teaching standards have brought changes to West Rockingham Elementary this year, and Albert said she is excited to see the progress.
“Last year we started (the Common Core State Standards Initiative),” Albert said. “I like it because it goes deeper — kids are learning more. It’s still new to me, too. This year we will have new strategies. It’s exciting because everybody is doing the same thing. Every year is like a new year this way.”
Albert said she always has high expectations in her classroom, and believes reading is one of the most important skills to have.
“I want all children to master what I taught them,” she said. “I’m a risk-taker. If I think something is good, I’ll try it … When I stand and look around and see children reading, that’s when I know I’m accomplished.”
In addition to teaching, Albert said her next goal is to write a book about her experiences in the classroom.
“I want to be one of those people who writes about their life,” she said with a laugh.
Chelsi Wright, a 22-year-old from Aberdeen, will begin her first year as a kindergarten teacher at West Rockingham this year.
“It runs in the family, so it seemed natural to teach,” Wright said as she worked on a few last minute papers on Friday. “Those moments you see the light bulb go off and a kid gets it — you know that’s what it’s all about.”
She received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, with a minor in History.
“The teachers I’ve had were always really compassionate,” Wright said. “They took the time to help me out and that made an impact on me.”
Wright said she plans on incorporating guided discovery techniques in her classroom.
“My hopes are that every child in the room is at grade level at the end of the year,” she said. “Education is lifelong. I hope (the students) learn a lot, as well as have fun.
“I’m nervous, but excited. I think I’ll adapt and adjust and it will be an interesting year … when I interviewed with (Principal Willette Surgeon), I just had this feeling. You just know when it’s the right fit … I’m really thrilled,” said Wright.
The first day of school is Monday, Aug. 27.
Parents and community members are encouraged to attend the school renovation showcases on Sunday, held at Ellerbe Middle School at 1:30 p.m., Rohanen Middle School at 3 p.m., and at Monroe Avenue Elementary at 5 p.m. These showcases are set to reveal completed bond projects at each school, and school board members will be hosting tours during the afternoon.
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.