New faces: Frenship schools welcome first-year educators

The first day of school is often a time of nerves for the students, but for three first-year teachers at Frenship, it wasn’t as stressful as one might assume.

For Amy Stone, who teaches applied math and math and science labs for students who struggle with the TAKS test, there was never a moment of fear on the first day, and she didn’t lose any sleep the night before school.

“I might have been scared for five minutes before student teaching,” she said.

Stone said she has always felt drawn to be a teacher. Although she got a degree in finance in 2009 from Texas Tech, she said she believes at this point in her life, teaching is where she needs to be.

“I really love kids,” said Stone. “I want to make a difference in their lives.”

The most surprising thing about teaching has been the amount of paperwork, which she did not have to keep track of while student teaching.

Although her organization helps her keep track of that paperwork, she said creativity is most important in her class when trying to find an approach to reach all students.

Another first-year teacher, Rebecca West, already has quite a history at Bennett Elementary School, where she has been an early childhood special education assistant for four and a half years.

Since finishing up her master’s degree in special education earlier this year, she is now able to take over a classroom as a teacher.

“This is my first official year as a teacher,” she said. “I was ready for it to finally be my room and my classroom.”

After more than four years as an assistant, she said she had seen a variety of teaching styles, including teachers who were very laid back about messes and those who were very rigid. In her own classroom, she said she strives to have “orderly chaos,” or a happy medium between structure and mess.

The biggest change in being a teacher instead of an assistant, she said, is dealing with the required paperwork and documentation, which she did not have to manage as an assistant.

“It’s hard. That was my biggest struggle,” she said. She also comes in earlier and stays later, trying to think of new ways to reach students.

“Every day, it gets a little easier,” she said.

She did not set out to become a teacher.

After graduating from Frenship in 2001, she went to South Plains College, where she got a human services degree. She started working with adults in community living situations, teaching them life skills. Through a friend whom she had worked with, she came to Bennett and agreed to stay one semester, telling then-Principal Rhonda Dillard that she would go back to working with adults after that.

But she stayed.

“I just ended up here and couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” said West.

Kevin Van Gheem is in his first year as a biology teacher at Frenship High School, but taught middle school science in Utah.

When his wife, Amy, was offered a position in Lubbock as an obstetrical resident, they moved their family of four.

Van Gheem said FHS is similar to the school he taught at before, although it has a more diverse student population. Most notably, he said Frenship students are very polite.

The biology teacher said he started his career in a research lab, where he purified protein.

“Basically, it was just me and the protein,” he joked. But he said the solitude of lab work made him crave people.

Now as a teacher, he said he feeds off the energy of his students.

“As far as the students go, I like them contributing and talking,” he said, adding that he likes order, but he wants his students to actively participate in his classes.

The hardest part about being a new teacher at FHS is pacing his teaching.

“I’ve never taught block scheduling before,” he said. “Definitely, the block schedule is so much nicer with the labs.”

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