When the morning bell rings Monday in the Columbia Public Schools, the students might not be the only ones facing first-day jitters.
This year, 119 teachers will work in the district for the first time, and 51 are first-year teachers.
Jill Sueltz, 27, is new to the Columbia schools this year and will teach English and drama at Jefferson Junior High School. Although this is her third year as a teacher, Sueltz knows she will be learning right alongside her students.
“I’m nervous because I will be learning a new building and new people,” she said. “I have to learn everything over again.”
The starting salary for teachers this year is $27,600, an increase of $1,800.
The district cut about 20 full-time teaching positions, said Mary Laffey, director of human resources for Columbia Public Schools. Ten other professional positions, such as coordinators and secretaries, also were cut. Laffey also said the school district filled seven positions in media, family and consumer science, and math with people who hold temporary authorization certificates.
Columbia schools participate in programs designed to recruit and train teachers. Two such programs are the Science and Mathematics Academy for the Recruitment and Retention of Teachers and the University of Missouri Teaching Fellowship Program.
The first program aims to relieve shortages of math and science teachers by allowing people with degrees in those fields to earn teaching certification while interning or teaching in Missouri public schools. Now in its second year, the program has grown from 19 to 32 participants. The Columbia Public Schools employ five teachers with the program.
The teaching fellowship program allows first-year teachers to work in a classroom setting with a mentor while completing a master’s degree at MU. Laffey said 22 new fellows will teach in Columbia schools this year, and 12 of last year’s fellows will return as full-time teachers. The program is designed to promote teacher retention.
Areas that can be difficult to staff, such as special education, saw an increase in applicants this year, Laffey said. Leslie Moore will be a special-education teacher at Lange Middle School. Moore formerly taught in Louisiana, but she is preparing for many changes as she begins her tenure in Columbia.
“Everything here is more integrated,” Moore said. “In Louisiana, we had hands-on, but then we taught from the book.”
Ashley Malorin, who is coming to Columbia from the St. Louis area, will teach community skills in the special-education program at Hickman High School.
“I had to go through three interviews, and it was tough to get a job, so it feels like an honor,” Malorin said.