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District Celebrates, Supports New-to-the-Profession Teachers as They Reach Halfway Point of First School Year

Belton ISD’s 66 new-to-the-profession teachers have reached the halfway point of their first school year, and district leaders say that’s cause to celebrate.

“As a new teacher, sometimes it’s hard to see the long-term effects of the fruits of your labor,” Superintendent Matt Smith said. “We think it’s important to recognize new teachers for the hard work they’re putting in and help them understand they’ll see growth through students over a series of years. It’s not just about what you do on a daily basis, but it’s about the long-term impact on kids.”

The district hosted its first-ever New Teacher Appreciation Dinner last week at Lake Belton High School. Teachers were treated to a meal alongside their principal, district administrators and members of the Board of Trustees. After dinner, they received handwritten notes of encouragement from their colleagues. 

“There’s a big lift when you become a classroom teacher. You’re responsible for the learning of every one of the kids in front of you,” Smith said. “We’re thankful for their work, for dedicating their lives to improving students’ lives.”

The appreciation dinner is just one way the district is working to encourage and support new teachers.

“Ongoing training and support are critical to setting new teachers up for success,” Vickie Dean, director of professional learning, said. “Our new teachers join a mentor/ambassador program where they receive emotional support along with help learning policies and procedures. We’ve heard great feedback so far that the program gives new teachers a relationship with a trusted peer who helps answer questions about all sorts of things — classroom management, lesson planning, pedagogy — and is also someone they can observe to gain new ideas.”

New Belton ISD teachers also participate in an induction program called INSPIRE Academy where they learn about developing routines and procedures in the classroom, writing lesson plans, building trust and rapport with students and best practices to engage every student.

New teacher Rachel Cockrum said becoming a pre-kindergarten teacher at the Belton Early Childhood School this school year has had its share of surprises, but she’s felt connected through the mentorship program.

“It’s been nice to hear what other teachers are going through and how they handle things,” she said. “I have had a lot of support. I’ve learned a ton, a ton, a ton — and I absolutely love it.”

Azzie Knox, a former professional women’s basketball player, is halfway through her first year teaching and coaching at Lake Belton Middle School. 

“It’s been fun, to say the least,” Knox said. “I went into it a little nervous because it is my first year. But just being myself is what I’ve been told to do, and it’s been working. I’m honest with them, but I care. And they work for you when you care. If I can sum it up in one word, definitely fun. It’s been fun.”

Jan. 18, 2023