Many of the new teachers have long associations with PORTA. Jim Brauer, for example, credits his daughter, Sara, for having inspired him to teach, while Andrew Biermann points to “coaching at PORTA the last seven years and getting to know the kids and faculty” as the root of his desire to teach for the district. Seventh grade English teacher Elizabeth Carter’s observation that “PORTA school district offers that small town community feeling that was important to me as a teacher and as a parent of three kids in this district” tends to typify the general feeling of both new and returning teachers in the PORTA district.
When asked about the things they wished everyone knew about teaching, the new staff commonly identified the time and effort required to develop rigorous and relevant lessons for their students. The common joke, “What are three reasons to get into teaching? June, July, and August,” really doesn’t reflect what teachers do today. Most teachers spend much of their summer time taking classes and/or workshops to enhance their teaching skills or revisiting and revising lessons to improve them for the coming year. As Andrew Biermann states, “I wish people knew how much time teachers spent working after school and in the summer preparing to educate children.” In its 2015 article “The Myth of a Teacher’s ‘Summer Vacation,’” The Atlantic pointed to the variety of items that can populate a teacher’s summer, including, “attending meetings, developing school curriculum, helping train new teachers, contacting families of students...graduate-school coursework...classroom organization or relocation, and so on.”
Another common thread uniting the new and veteran PORTA teachers is their dedication to student success. Guidance Counselor Linnay Taylor identifies one of the magical moments that makes teaching such a personally rewarding profession, saying, “It is amazing to help a student discover what they want to do with their life, set goals towards reaching those dreams, then be able to accomplish that after high school.”
Educators may not always get the chance to see the results of their work many years down the road, as it’s often difficult to measure the degree to which teachers influence their students. Andy Biermann knows, however, the joy that results from seeing gains students make over the course of a year. He describes his “favorite part [of being a teacher] as watching how kids grow academically from the beginning of the year to the end.”
The challenge of creating a demanding, yet supportive, school climate is especially important today, and one that PORTA teachers gladly embrace. Guidance Counselor Taylor notes the significant challenges teachers face as they “not only teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also support students socially and emotionally. Teachers are mentors as well as educators, guiding students on this journey we call life.”
Picture l to r: James Brauer, Linnay Taylor, Brianna Todd, Melissa Blankenstein, Elizabeth Carter, and Andrew Biermann