Sevan Aydenian spent all day Friday making sure everything would be ready for her first day of first grade at Cunningham Elementary. She organized her crayons, construction paper, pencils and erasers. She mentally prepared to meet 22 new friends and begin an academic year full of new experiences.
Aydenian isn't one of the hundreds of Turlock first graders who will begin their formal academic careers on Monday. She is one of the many first year teachers the Turlock Unified School District hired this year as part of the district's largest new teacher class in recent history.
"It is very overwhelming and exciting at the same time," Aydenian said about preparing for her first classroom as a teacher. "I finally accomplished something I've worked my whole life to do."
TUSD hired three times as many new teachers this year compared to most academic years, said Superintendent Sonny Da Marto.
"We had over 60 (teachers) retire and then there was the normal attrition," Da Marto said. "The majority are relatively new teachers; some right out of college, some with two to three years experience."
The district didn't have any trouble finding enough candidates to interview for the open teaching positions, with over 600 applications turned in.
"It was a very competitive, very thorough interview process," said Da Marto. "We believe we've gotten some really outstanding teachers."
Among the new hires are Sarah Cole and Danny Freitas. Both Cole and Freitas were among the 18 teachers who were laid off this year from Denair Unified School District.
"I was the last person hired into the district, so when financial troubles hit I knew I'd be the first to go. At the same time, it felt really sad," said Cole, who was a teacher with Denair Charter Academy.
When Cole received her layoff notice in January, she immediately started looking for another job.
"I applied for over 75 jobs all over the state of California. I found out at the end of June I got this job. Ever since I moved here two and half years ago from Arcata, Turlock has been my goal," Cole said.
Freitas also worked at Denair Charter Academy, before being laid off in January. The Denair Unified refugees will be working together once again, as they were both hired as teachers for TUSD's new Bridge program.
The Bridge program is for 9th and 10th grade students who have been unsuccessful in the traditional school setting. It will combine textbook and online educational practices at both Turlock and Pitman high schools. The goal of the program is to keep academically at-risk students in school.