Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hillsborough school district welcomes more than 1,000 new teachers

From left, chairwoman April Griffin, deputy superintendent Jeff Eakins and superintendent MaryEllen Elia watch as more than 1,000 new teachers are welcomed into the Hillsborough school district at the Armwood High auditorium Wednesday.


From left, chairwoman April Griffin, deputy superintendent Jeff Eakins and superintendent MaryEllen Elia watch as more than 1,000 new teachers are welcomed into the Hillsborough school district at the Armwood High auditorium Wednesday.

SEFFNER — Three weeks before the start of the school year, more than 1,000 new teachers were welcomed into the Hillsborough County School District on Wednesday.

Filling the Armwood High School auditorium, they were promised mentors who would be a cellphone call away. They were warned that if they texted or Facebook-messaged a student at midnight, they'd be called in for discipline.

And they were urged to treat each student as their own child, neighbor, niece or nephew.

"Just remember, we all own all of our students," said superintendent MaryEllen Elia, addressing the group on day three of their orientation. "The difference in what happens in schools positively, or what doesn't happen in schools, is you. You are the most important one."

The superintendent's welcome is a yearly tradition for the nation's eighth-largest district. Training took a twist this year, as air conditioning problems at Strawberry Crest High School forced a last-minute relocation to Armwood.

Administrators took the change in stride, thanking the staff at Armwood and reminding out-of-town recruits that in Florida, air conditioning matters.

They told teachers that, under the Gates-funded Empowering Effective Teaching program, they will receive mentors during their first two years.

Unlike the evaluation component of EET, the mentors have been popular from the start. Elia credits the program for helping boost new teacher retention from 74 to 94 percent.

"The reality is, our students are the most important thing that we have in Hillsborough County," Elia said. "If you make decisions for what's best for kids, you're going to make the right decisions. But for us to make sure that you can be as successful as you can as quickly as you can, you need support."

She was followed by School Board chairwoman April Griffin, whose message was more personal, taken from her childhood. She described a student at King High School who was mouthy, tardy and didn't do homework.

"I was that kid," said Griffin, who at 44 is completing a bachelor's degree and running for Hillsborough County Commission.

A math teacher appreciated Griffin's potential and enlisted her as a classroom helper.

"She saw something in me and she told me to believe in myself, that I was better than the way that I was acting," Griffin said. "And it made a difference. It made a huge difference in my life."

As in prior years, administrators lauded the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, which collaborates with them on EET project and other issues.

"We are a solution-driven union," president Jean Clements said. "That makes us a smarter district and a more successful district."

The audience included Mary Colucci, a 26-year-old exceptional-education teacher whose father is the principal of the Bowers-Whitley Career Center.

"It made me so excited to hear how well they support you and to know they don't just throw you into the classroom," she said.

Jessica Rigodon, 25, just graduated from the University of South Florida but grew up in Miami and will teach at Stewart Middle Magnet School in Tampa.

Rigodon was encouraged by the pride the speakers took in the district — and the spirit of collaboration with the union.

"It's nice that they have that sense of community," she said.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or

Hillsborough school district welcomes more than 1,000 new teachers 07/31/13 [Last modified: Thursday, August 1, 2013 12:03am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics


    Winner of the week 1: 'Liquor wall’ proponents. Gov. Rick Scott’s veto of a bill to allow Walmart, Target and other big box stores to sell liquor was a victory for an array of groups, from smaller merchants and Publix (which has stand-alone booze shops near its stores) to those who feel the hard stuff …

  2. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  3. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  4. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  5. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.