The classroom was decorated with Dr. Seuss quotes, and the desks had colorful name tags waiting for every pupil.
Jamestown Elementary School second-grade teacher Stephanie Scott had spent the past week posting rules on the walls and putting her favorite books on display until it looked perfect.
Her favorite part of the setup? The fact that it was all hers.
As the new school year began in Richmond County on Monday, about 125 of the district’s 1,955 educators were launching their careers in the field.
Scott, a 2013 Georgia Regents University graduate, said landing her first teaching job was a lifelong dream come true.
“I want to be the kind of teacher that pushes kids to the next level,” Scott said. “It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”
New teachers are entering the field at a time when education is facing a litany of challenges. Georgia is one of 46 states that have adopted some form of the Common Core education standards, a more rigorous curriculum designed by states
to better prepare students for college and the workforce.
At the same time, individual districts are expected to meet higher expectations with fewer resources. In Richmond County alone, more than $150 million in state funding has been slashed over the past decade.
Despite the challenges, Scott, 23, is unwavering.
Born and raised in Sylvania, Ga., Scott said she knew she wanted to be an teacher ever since she was a second-grade student in Bonnie Bazmore’s class at Screven County Elementary School.
“She took time out, she was patient and caring,” Scott said. “She went that extra mile and made us realize, ‘Wow, people actually care about you.’ ”
After graduating high school, Scott left the town “where everybody knows everybody” to study early childhood education at GRU in 2008. She graduated this year and put her application out across Georgia.
When Richmond County called to offer her a job at the end of July, she started planning for her class that week.
On Monday, Scott had her 22 second-graders throw a beach ball around to introduce themselves and talk about their summers. They went over classroom rules and learned the proper way to walk down the hallway in a single line.
Before releasing them for physical education class, Scott held up the picture book First Day Jitters and promised to read it as a class when they returned.
“How many of you guys were a little nervous coming to school today?” she asked.
Almost every hand shot up.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I was, too.”