Keeping new teachers in Columbia is the goal of a new welcome center that opened Wednesday.
Located in the Columbia School District building on Vandiver Drive, the center is open for new staff to learn about curriculum and community resources, including real estate information.
“Research does show that beginning teachers who receive this support are more likely to remain in the teaching field and more likely to develop effective teaching methods that they can implement with their students,” said Leslie Trogdon, director of school improvement.
This fall, about 170 people will join the district as teachers, administrators, counselors and media specialists. In the past, they waited until a four-day orientation in August to receive the bulk of curriculum information and a computer login and password.
“The problem with only having orientation and nothing else is that we try to front load our teachers with all this information at the beginning of the school year, and they just get overwhelmed,” Trogdon said. “The welcome center is an opportunity for teachers to jump-start and get some things out of the way so that they are not trying to learn everything right before school starts.”
Although the new teacher orientation will still take place in August, it will now last only three days.
Planning the center, which cost about $2,000, has been a responsibility of the district’s professional development committee, drawn from each of the 29 public schools. Trogdon said she got the idea for the welcome center after attending a national conference in the fall but said the committee developed the idea into reality.
The center will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesdays through Aug. 8. It is being staffed by members of the committee, all of whom are teachers.
“They can ask us nuts and bolts questions, along with questions about planning, management and curriculum, that are at the forefront of (new) teachers’ minds,” said Helen Cope, committee chairwoman and a language arts teacher at Oakland Junior High School.
Colleen Goss, who will be teaching business part time at Hickman High School, was one of the first new teachers to take advantage of the center’s resources. For her, getting a computer login as early as possible was especially important.
“I wanted to sign up for some professional development classes,” Goss said, “And I needed access.”