A weekend interview with ...
... Melissa Fairbanks, a first-year teacher at Seven Oaks Elementary School in Pasco County. Teachers head back to school on Monday, so it seemed appropriate to talk to one of the newest ones about what the first days of school means to her. Fairbanks, 21, grew up in Perry, Ohio, and graduated this spring from Kent State University. She spoke with reporter Jeff Solochek.
Tell me why you want to be a teacher.
I wanted to be a teacher mainly to give back to my teachers. When I went through school, and when I was younger, my family wasn't all that supportive of me. So it was the teachers that I looked to, to support me. And they were really the ones that made me who I am today. So this is my way of giving back to them. I'm excited.
You said you went to school in Ohio. You've never been to Florida before?
The first time I was in Florida before I came down was when I was 5 years old. Just, when I went into school, when I was a freshman, I always had the notion of moving into North Carolina or Florida. I had my boyfriend, he has two brothers down here, so we came down.
How did you choose Pasco County schools?
Actually, we had a job fair at Kent State University in Ohio. They had schools from nationwide come in. Hillsborough County was one of the schools that came in. I interviewed with him and I was talking with him about moving into Pasco County instead, so he kind of gave me the connections who to talk to. ... I came for my spring break and I just contacted the people in Pasco County and contacted the principals from there....
Are you nervous at all about your first day of school?
Oh, absolutely. I am so nervous. If you talk to BJ (Smith), my principal, she will tell you about it. She will tell you from the very get-go I had questions like all the time. And I was e-mailing her and I was calling the school like every day and asking questions about it.
What kind of questions?
Like, when we get to see our classrooms, because they were cleaning a lot during the summer, so we weren't allowed to come in. So I wanted to see the classroom. I wanted to know what the curriculum was like and that sort of thing, so I could start planning for what I would be teaching.
So what have you planned?
Well, I've planned some back-to-school activities, like get-to-know-you and stuff like that. And my bulletin board in my classroom. I'm doing a lot of all about me stuff, so they can get to know me, because I'm a new teacher. And a lot of them will be familiar with (each other) because they've worked together. So a lot of the activities I've planned are get-to-know-you things. I'm very excited.
You sound more excited than nervous.
We went to seminars the other week, and I was talking to colleagues, and they were like, 'I don't know this. I don't know this.' So I'm nervous and stuff, but I'm like excited about it too. I'm nervous because it's my first year teaching. A lot of the people I'm working with are new, too. Some of them have been teaching for years and then moved down here. So this will be their first year here. But I have a lot of support here. I guess that's why I'm more excited than nervous. When it comes down to the day that I'm actually going to be walking into a classroom, I'm going to be like shaking.
How are you going to get over it?
The support is the biggest thing. The principals have been really nice and supportive. The janitors have been really helpful in getting the classrooms ready. I'm teaching with experienced teachers, so a lot of it is going to be the support.
Is there any one piece of advice you have for kids coming into your classroom?
My advice to the kids would be, have a good time. I'm a young teacher and I have a lot to learn. I can learn just as much from them as they can learn from me. So, I'm excited about it.