First day of school brings excitement for new teachers

The first day of school means the return of homework, early mornings and fresh starts.


It comes with sharpened pencils, new classmates, first day jitters and an expectation of achievement.

For two Murphey Middle School teachers, the first day of this school year is the dawn of a new career. Jessica McCarthy, a recent college graduate, and Janell Paschal, a career changer, begin their first day of teaching as Richmond County schools go back in to session today.

“I’m expecting it to be a challenge, but I’m expecting it to be success as well,” Paschal said.

Both women are scholars in the Georgia Teaching Fellows, which leads prospective teachers into the field through training and support.

They both wanted to teach math in schools with low-income students at the middle school level, where McCarthy said influencing a child’s passion for learning is most crucial.

McCarthy, 22, was raised in Tampa, Fla., and graduated with a degree in family youth and community sciences from the University of Florida this year. Most in her degree field go into social work or nonprofit organizations, but McCarthy wanted to make a bigger impact. As a math junkie, she remembered a piece of advice one of her high school teachers gave her years ago: “Never become a math teacher.”

That didn’t sit well with McCarthy. She hated the sight of young people struggling with math and knew she could help make a

“I think she just didn’t like teaching students who hated something she was really passionate about,” McCarthy said of her former instructor. “At the time I was like, ‘Wow, you’re so right,’ but as I’ve experienced more, I just want to change that perspective for students. Just don’t give them something to hate.”

Paschal, 31, got a taste of the classroom when she taught life skills classes for Miracle Making Ministries in Augusta. Raised in Texas, Paschal earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling from Abilene Christian University in her home state and later moved to Augusta.

She liked touching young people’s lives, giving them confidence through education. Her goal for her first year of teaching is to inspire an interest in math in as many students as possible.

As Georgia Teaching Fellows, both women have completed an extensive screening process and
six-week training curriculum.

This year’s cohort of new teachers is the GTF’s second, and about 60 people have been inducted since the program began in Richmond County last year.

Eric Bland, GTF Augusta’s program operations manager, said the fellowship recruits teachers to high-need schools and helps retain them at a time when keeping effective instructors is a problem across the state.

Teachers receive six weeks of training by working at Richmond County’s summer school with veteran teachers and administrators.

The fellows who make it through the hiring process are placed in the school system as full-time teachers.

Once they secure positions, teachers receive five three-hour seminars and undergo evaluations and observations during their first year of work. Those identified as highly effective after their first year are eligible for certification, Bland said.

“We provide them with that first-year support traditional teachers don’t get,” Bland said.

Paschal and McCarthy spent last week getting their classrooms ready and preparing what they’d say to students on the first day.

McCarthy, a young spirit with a huge smile, said she wants her students to see her cheerfulness but not take advantage.

“I smile a lot, but I’m not afraid to say ‘No, you can’t do that,’ ” she said.

Paschal set up her classroom with a checkerboard theme, detailing her desk with a potted plant and making it as welcoming as

“I’m excited just because it’s my very own classroom, so I’m going to make it my own,” she said. “The nerves will come, but that’s expected.”

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CELLPHONES: No phones – period. Phones can be taken even if spotted with the power off in a backpack. They can be confiscated for 30 days on the first offense and 60 days on the second offense.

TIME CHANGES: Some Richmond County schools are extending the day. They are:

• Murphey Middle: 8:50 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

• Butler High: 7:05 a.m. to 2:35 p.m.

• Laney High: 7:30 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.

• Josey High: 7:05 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.

• Glenn Hills High: 7:05 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.