Less than two weeks before the start of school on Monday, Aug. 12, 150 new OUSD teachers took part in the New Teacher Institute.
It was a three-day training seminar at La Escuelita that started on July 31. Going into the 2019-20 school year, the Oakland Unified School District has hired several hundred new teachers, many of whom are brand new to the teaching profession, some of whom have transferred into the district from other locations and still others who decided to leave another position within the district to become a teacher.
“I’m so excited I don’t know what to do,” exclaimed new Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School special education teacher Brenda Volasgis.
She was a para-educator at Parker Elementary for the past four years, and adds she has a long history of supporting young people, previously working as a school bus driver and a school crossing guard.
“I have a heart for it,” said Volasgis. “It’s in my soul,” which is why she wants to be a special ed teacher.
“It’s an absolutely wonderful experience to have a student go from not catching the ball, when you constantly teach the same thing over and over to light bulbs coming on, and they catch it.”
“I went on strike with OUSD before I got my first paycheck. But that’s Oakland,” explained new teacher, Julia Sayavong.
She will be teaching science, social studies, writing and English Language Development at
Hoover Elementary. Sayavong was at Manzanita Community School for part of last year taking over a class mid-year, and she couldn’t be more excited for this school year.
“I get to start from day one, do things my way. I feel like teaching is a lot about knowing yourself. And I feel I know myself a lot better, and I know what works for me and what doesn’t. Day one, it’s mine. It’s like a blank canvas.”
In the New Teacher Institute, the staff learned about wide-ranging topics including what it means to work in a Sanctuary District, working in trauma-informed schools, components of a healthy classroom environment, culturally responsive teaching, and restorative justice.
They also focused on specific subject matter from math and science to music and physical education.
“I’ve been in middle school teaching math and science for the majority of my career,” said Jeremey Gorman who taught at the former King Estates Middle School, Hillcrest K-8 School and Coliseum College Prep Academy.
But now, he’s going from middle school to elementary, becoming a K-5 science prep teacher at REACH Academy.
“What I’m most excited about with this change is the freshness of attitude. I know at this point that I will be able to rise to any of the challenges that show up.” He said the change is why he wanted to attend the New Teacher Institute.”
Gorman added an unequivocally positive review of the New Teacher Institute and Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) Coach, Muslimah Mohammed. “I really like how succinct she is. She’s explaining the practices I see in the most successful classrooms. She’s putting it all together.”
The new teachers and all educators reported to their schools on Wednesday, Aug. 7, to get their classrooms, their lesson plans and themselves ready for their students to arrive on Monday, the first day of school.
As a former teacher, Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell knows exactly what the feeling is like.
“There are butterflies,” she said. “It’s exciting, of course. But for the new teachers it’s a personal first. You wonder what to expect. What the kids will be like, how they’ll respond to you, how your training will work for you in managing the class, or your collection of classes in the upper grades.
That being said, I am so excited for all of our teachers,” said Johnson-Trammell.
“They get to work with the most amazing young people, side by side with the best staff and site leaders anywhere.
“Likewise, I know our talent team has done a remarkable job recruiting an outstanding class of new teachers, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the great work our staff and students do together this year.”
OUSD is still recruiting teachers. As of Tuesday, there were about 30 spaces still open, especially in special education.
For information and to apply for a job, please visit our website at www.ousd.org/careers.