Most teachers who attended Turlock Unified School District’s New Teacher Orientation on Wednesday will be in charge of their own classroom for the first time on Monday, but incoming Pitman High School Spanish teacher Joan Burnam is well-versed when it comes to educating.
After teaching at Turlock Christian for the past 12 years, Burnam is one of 44 new teachers hired by TUSD this year. The change came from a desire for personal advancement, she said, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with other foreign language instructors and impact the lives of even more students than she already has.
“I’m looking forward to changing even more lives through language and culture and since I’ll have more of a diverse group, the opportunity for me to learn from them as well,” Burnam said.
As a teacher at TC, Burnam taught multiple grades as well as subjects throughout the course of her career at the school, ultimately serving as the sole head of her department and instructing Spanish classes of all levels. Though it was rewarding to oversee all of the students at TC who wanted to learn Spanish, it was a bit lonely when it came to bouncing ideas off of her colleagues, she said.
Already, the teachers in the foreign language department at PHS has taken Burnam under their collective wing. TUSD places an emphasis on Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs, providing plenty of opportunities for teachers to share ideas with each other.
“I was my own department at Turlock Christian, which had wonderful pros to it, but at the same time what I really desired was the opportunity to collaborate,” she said. “Someone told me that in the foreign language department we’re all friends and we’re kind of like a family, and I can already sense that.”
TUSD’s New Teacher Orientation on Wednesday provided the district’s newbies with the chance to meet each other and their administrators, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources David Lattig said, as well as introduced them to support systems in place throughout the district. The New Teacher Orientation also gave new employees a brief overview of key initiatives, essential practices and general information about what’s happening across TUSD.
Of the 44 new teachers hired by TUSD this year, nine filled newly-created positions. TUSD created seven new special education positions, one new secondary position teaching Character and Health Education and also added one additional Reading Specialist/Early Literacy Coach position.
On Thursday a “Techventure” gave teachers insight into the important role technology plays within the district, and on Friday, all of the staff gathered for an All Staff Kick-Off featuring keynote speakers Sam Romeo and Chris Hawley, who shared a message on “Health from the Inside Out.”
“I got emotional as I was looking around, and thought ‘I am so grateful to be here with this school district and their emphasis on mindfulness,” Burnam said, noting that the filled gym was larger than her entire previous school district. “Not once did I hear, ‘You need to do this...you need to have these numbers.’ All I heard was, ‘You need to take care of yourself and you need to be the best you can be so that you can give the best of you to your students.’”