“We know you can make a difference”

GREENWICH – As Greenwich Public Schools ramps up for the 2022-23 school year, 79 new teachers have converged at Greenwich High School.

The group donned name badges and shook hands during the first day of orientation for new teachers. At this year’s annual event, Superintendent Toni Jones spoke about some new beginnings for the district.

Jones shared a draft of the district’s strategic plan, which a school board committee is developing.

“I think we’ve all learned, especially over the past two years, that people come before content; it’s our students before the content,” Jones said at Wednesday’s event, looking at the mission statement. “What links will you establish with your students and their families? You will see this reflected in the strategic work we do.

The first goal of the district’s strategic plan is to increase the high school graduation rate from 96% or 97% to 99%.

“If you get 700 graduate students every year and you lose 3% of those students, that’s still a number of young people that we know we can do better to be able to keep them with us,” Jones said.

The district will also review student reading performance after five years in the district, with a growth mindset, she said. He also hopes to prepare a “large portion” of students to take Algebra I in eighth grade.

Beyond academics, Jones said the district wants to increase family and community engagement, likely by adding more parent conferences. She said she would like to hold conferences for middle and high school families in addition to the elementary school conferences.

The strategic plan also includes an objective to improve the working environment for staff. Teachers have asked for more professional development, so the district has scheduled more early release days this year, Jones said.

Director of Human Resources Jonathan Budd, who joined GPS on July 1, led the new teachers in a reflective activity whose mission was to serve the students at its heart.

“You touch the futures of dozens of students on that first day of school, and they too could be sitting here one day,” Budd said. “There’s someone in this class who’s going to be a physicist; there is someone in this class who is going to become a poet; there is someone in this class who will one day be a great parent or guardian for their children or loved ones.

“And the thing is, you don’t know who in the class is in each bucket, so to speak, and you teach and build relationships with each of those kids so that the world is open to them.”

Each teacher received a book of quotes from Mr. Rogers and was encouraged to think of someone who influenced them during their formative years. Many later raised their hands, agreeing that they were thinking of a schoolteacher.

“Keep in mind the difference you can and will make,” Budd said. “You were hired because we know you can make that difference, and there were thousands, literally thousands, of people who applied for the jobs you were in who weren’t hired for the jobs because we didn’t think they could make a difference as much as you could.

New teachers

Abe Zimmerman, a new science teacher at Eastern Middle School, was one of 11 teachers who came forward as Greenwich alumni when Budd sought teachers returning to their alma mater.

He is filling a position left by his former teachers, who retired at the end of last school year, both of whom inspire his teaching career.

Zimmerman said he hopes to be able to be the educator for his students that his eighth-grade science teacher Bruce Johnson was for him.

“I used to ask a lot of questions that weren’t content-related,” Zimmerman said. “I used to get a lot of life advice or information beyond what was in science, especially from Bruce, which made him a great teacher.”

It’s important to teach students to ask questions and seek answers, Zimmerman said.

“I think if they can do that, they’re basically scientists,” he said. “That’s what science is all about – asking good questions and finding good answers – and it helps them be better students.”

Before challenging new educators with a spaghetti-building exercise, Budd also measured years of teaching experience among new hires. About 10 are new to teaching and a few have at least 25 years of teaching experience.

Married educators Chris Healey, an advanced learning program teacher at Riverside School, and Jennifer Healey, an English to other languages ​​teacher at Greenwich High School, each have 25 years of experience.

They moved from Portland, Oregon over a year ago. Jennifer Healey accepted a temporary position teaching ESL and Chris Healey taught in Bridgeport.

He applied for a position in GPS, and soon after, a permanent position opened up in Jennifer Healey’s department. They enjoy working in the same neighborhood and she is passionate about GPS after her year as a long-term substitute.

Portland’s resources are not comparable and they appreciate that the necessary materials are made available, she said.

“Students are no different, but Greenwich puts its money where it talks and says, ‘OK, teachers, we need you to get the kids from here to here. What do you need for this to happen? “, Did she say.

The ESL department’s curriculum is built around student needs, Healey said, and she likes the student-to-teacher ratio in Greenwich compared to other districts.

Chris Healey has yet to work at Greenwich Public Schools, said he is optimistic about his career.

“To be welcomed and celebrated for joining the Greenwich community is simply empowering as a teacher. I am entering this school year where I feel very welcome and appreciated as a teacher,” he said.

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