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New teacher reflects on first week

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Posted: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 1:00 am

Brandon Spurgin is dressed to impress in a button down shirt, gray slacks and a tie, despite how warm his classroom is.

“It’s all about first impressions,” Spurgin said.

Spurgin is a new teacher at Taylor High School, and he is new to the teaching profession as well. He received his degree in English and then a teaching degree from The University of Texas at Arlington.

“I went through and got my English degree and then realized you can’t really do anything with an English degree but teach,” he said. He went back and got alternative certification and began looking for a job.

“I tried to get hired, but the economy fell out so I went back to UTA and got my official teaching certificate,” Spurgin said. He originally planned to be an intermediate teacher, but when he attended his first class he was informed that it was cancelled because there weren’t enough students enrolled. The professor told the students that they could wait another semester to take the same course or that they could take the course for secondary education. Spurgin chose to take the secondary education course.

Spurgin knew that he wanted to live close to Austin, so he began to look at school districts in the area and got an interview at THS.

“I really liked Mr. Ward, first of all. I liked the way he was talking about running his school,” he said. “It’s where I wanted to be and the school sounded awesome.”

He was hired and moved to Round Rock, where he currently lives.

“As far as the school district goes, everyone’s been very, very nice and very welcoming. It’s got that small town feel for sure,” he said. Spurgin grew up in a small town, Glennrose, south of Waco, so Taylor feels like home to him.

All of the new teachers are mentored by another teacher who has been at the school for at least a few years. Jana Richardson, another English teacher who has been at THS for 30 years, is Spurgin’s mentor. He has relied on her often these first few weeks, getting ready for and then starting school.

“If I have any questions, I go to her. And I have a lot of questions, as I found out this past week,” he said. The two of them and another English teacher, Melissa Thomas, all plan their courses together.

Thomas and Richardson were particularly helpful in helping Spurgin outfit his classroom. He has an Elmo projector  — not the Sesame Street character but a high-tech version of an old fashioned overhead projector. The Elmo is small and sleek and does away with transparencies. Not all teachers can get an Elmo since the school doesn’t have enough for all of them, but Thomas and Richardson encouraged him to get one from the library when they found out they had some available to be kept in classrooms. Other teachers can check one out from the library for a day.

What was Spurgin’s biggest concern? Classroom management in terms of behavior.

“That’s a big worry for all first year teachers, I think,” Spurgin said. “It’s been okay. A couple of kids have been difficult, but overall (it’s been) pretty positive.”

Spurgin always thought that his first day of solo teaching would be frightening, and he was right.

“First period was really shaky and then it just got better. It’s just gotten better every day,” he said. “I think it’s just about putting the teacher hat on, accepting that role, and stepping into the role.”

In just a week, Spurgin has become more comfortable in the classroom, and he looks forward to foraging relationships with his new students.

“You get really stressed and then ... this morning I was sitting here at the computer and I was working and my door was open and one of the girls in my English II (class) pokes her head in and is like ‘Hi, Mr. Spurgin! Morning!’,” he said. “I didn’t know I wanted to be a teacher until a a few years ago, but I knew I wanted to work with people; I wanted to help people. I love people. Older teachers might call me an idealist, but I really feel like I can make a difference. I want to retire and think back on teaching and (think) I did something that I enjoyed.”

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