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Story+Video: El Paso ISD Teachers return to Classrooms

Excitement filled the air at campuses throughout EPISD on Monday as teachers returned from summer break reconnecting with their colleagues and getting ready for the upcoming school year.

First-year teacher Raquel Marquez spent Monday afternoon putting up posters, the alphabet and other colorful manipulatives in anticipation of her dual-language pre-kindergarten students.

“I’m excited and nervous,” the Cielo Vista Elementary teacher said. “But I’m going to give it my all and I’m sure I’ll be just fine.”

Marquez is one of more than 4,000 EPISD teachers returning to their campus this school year — one week before students arrive.

The day began for most teachers with a principal-led meeting for campus and district updates, team building and welcoming of new staff. The afternoon gave teachers a chance to start setting up their classrooms. The next three days are staff development with Tuesday and Thursday at the campus.

“The campuses will be rolling out new initiatives including some of what they learned at the RTI conference and about the framework for active learning and take a deeper dive into campus data,” said Kathy Seufert, director of Staff Development.

A teacher at Cielo Vista Elementary School sets up her bulletin board on Monday, the first day back for teachers.
A teacher at Cielo Vista Elementary School sets up her bulletin board on Monday, the first day back for teachers.

On Wednesday, teachers will attend “EPISD Connect,” formally known as Jobalike, to examine curriculum and do lesson planning. The day also will feature a live stream message from Superintendent Juan Cabrera. On Friday, teachers will have a full day in their classroom for set up.

“It’s an action-packed week for teachers to prepare for the 2016-17 school year,” Seufert said.

At Charles Middle School, the Verizon grant was the all the buzz on campus. Teachers were excited about the opportunities the iPads and the free 4G access would bring to their students and classrooms.

“I’m so excited about the Verizon grant and how I can implement more technology in my classroom,” said humanities teacher Sonya Kuntz as she stapled in map keys and other displays in her classroom. “My goal for this year is for my students to interact globally — without leaving the classroom — through technology.”

Secondary Teacher of the Year Michael Reese is thrilled to start a new year.

“There has never been a better time to be a teacher or a student,” he said. “The Power Up initiative coupled with the active learning framework have made it possible to re-imagine teaching and learning. The sky is the limit.”

His advice to new incoming teachers: “Do everything you can to be as organized as possible prior to the first week of school. Think through

Teachers at Charles Middle School catch up after a meeting on the first day back on the job for them on Monday.
Teachers at Charles Middle School catch up after a meeting on the first day back on the job for them on Monday.

the basic flow of how you want your class to run on a daily basis. Structure your classrooms to make it possible for students to quickly rearrange themselves for working as a whole class, collaborative small groups, and as individuals. Your organization and prior planning will pay huge dividends as you move through the semester.”

Elementary Teacher of the Year Jill McGee from Mesita Elementary also is ready to welcome her new students.

“It is such a crazy feeling to know that I am about to meet 20 some young lives that will become my world for the next 38 weeks,” she said. “I am eager to get to know my students, learn their stories and figure out their passions.”

Her advice to new teachers: “Pursue creativity in your craft by focusing on one new strategy at a time. Whatever it is, take time to dream and set goals. Next week, next month, next year, you can try something else. But today, choose to pursue excellence in one new area. Our kids deserve it.”

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