Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

First-year Pinellas teachers gather to celebrate, vent

Pinellas teacher Janice Blaine, left, listens as Danielle Morrison looks up while talking about a few of her experiences as a first-year teacher at Pinellas Park Elementary, as teacher Joan Procida and first-year teacher Cindy Freed listen during the gathering.


Pinellas teacher Janice Blaine, left, listens as Danielle Morrison looks up while talking about a few of her experiences as a first-year teacher at Pinellas Park Elementary, as teacher Joan Procida and first-year teacher Cindy Freed listen during the gathering.

LARGO — Up before dawn, in bed by sunset.

That's been Kelsey Bennett's Monday-through-Friday life since August, when she became a Pinellas County schoolteacher.

The daughter of an educator, Bennett thought she knew what she was getting into when she signed on as a first-grade teacher at Northwest Elementary in St. Petersburg. The 23-year-old quickly learned there was more to the job than she'd ever imagined.

"I went home crying a lot over the stress of it all," Bennett said Wednesday at a gathering of other first-year teachers hosted by the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. "I felt a big responsibility on my shoulders. I was afraid I'd do something wrong."

First-year jitters was a common theme as other rookie teachers shared their hard-won experiences with things like discipline issues, mountains of paperwork and getting their students ready for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Lauren Hansell, a 27-year-old science teacher at Pinellas Park High, said she's been mistaken several times for a student. Karen Kaminsky, a 37-year-old itinerant music teacher, said she's often felt a step behind because she wasn't hired until after the school year began.

Both Hansell and Kaminsky praised their colleagues for getting them up to speed.

"People eventually realized I was new and took me under their wing," Kaminsky said.

The mood was upbeat at the second-annual PCTA barbecue and new teacher celebration as the teachers took turns sharing their successes. One had become a cheerleading coach. Another encouraged a struggling student to make all A's. And another is ending the year with all her students reading at grade level.

The chance to share war stories as well as successes is the reason why the union brings the new teachers together, said Mercy Roberg, a faculty representative and a teacher at Mildred Helms Elementary in Largo.

"It's just to thank them for a job well done," Roberg said. "We have a lot of great first-year teachers and we want them to stay in Pinellas County."

But getting teachers to stay is becoming more and more difficult, according to Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the Florida Education Association. For generations, education majors graduated from college and taught until they retired. Now, Pudlow said, many people teach for four or five years and move on to something else.

"Some love the idea of being a teacher until they get into the profession," Pudlow said.

Florida Department of Education statistics appear to bear that out. A report released in 2003, the most recent study available, shows that of the 107,229 public school teachers in Florida classrooms in the fall of 1992, only 61 percent were still teaching a decade later.

The Pinellas district retains about 40 percent of its new teachers over five years, said senior human resources specialist Kim Leitold. The district introduced a new program this year that aims to provide two hours a month of continuous training to new teachers in an effort to improve the retention rate, Leitold said.

But no amount of training can prepare a teacher for some things, said Bennett, the rookie first-grade teacher at Northwest Elementary.

Bennett, who normally wears contact lenses, came to school one day wearing her glasses. One of her students looked up at her and told her the glasses made her look like an old lady.

"I told him, 'You just have to deal with it for today,' " she said.

>>Fast facts

New hires in Florida public schools, 2008-09

School districts hired 8,680 fewer teachers for this school year than the prior year, a 43.8 percent decrease.

Hernando: 130

Hillsborough: 1,143

Pasco: 436

Pinellas: 420

Statewide: 10,604

Source: Florida Department of Education

First-year Pinellas teachers gather to celebrate, vent 05/13/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 10:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Flesh-eating bacteria nearly kills Florida man who thought he just had blisters from a hike


    Wayne Atkins thought little of the blisters he had gotten while hiking. He was trekking up and down the 4,500-foot-high Mount Garfield in New Hampshire - a 10-mile round trip - and blisters were no surprise.

    Wayne Atkins thought his blisters were from hiking, but the flesh eating bacteria nearly killed him. [YouTube]
  2. Yes, again: Rays blow late two-run lead, get swept by Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As weekends go, this was a bad one for the Rays. In a word: brutal.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger, foreground, reacts after giving up a home run to Texas Rangers' Carlos Gomez during the eighth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 23, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) FLMC116
  3. White House offers muddled message on Russia sanctions legislation


    WASHINGTON - White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday that the Trump administration supports new legislation to punish Russia for its meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its aggression toward Ukraine.

    President Donald Trump at the commissioning ceremony for the USS Gerald R. Ford  at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, July 22, 2017. [New York Times]
  4. 'Stranger Things' is coming back; here's the first trailer


    The nostalgia-heavy, small-screen blockbuster Stranger Things returns to Netflix with a new season on Oct. 27 - just in time for a pre-Halloween weekend binge session.

    A scene from the Stranger Things Season 2 trailer.
  5. Photos: Snooty the manatee remained lovable over the years


    Snooty, the world's oldest living manatee in captivity, and arguably the world's most famous, has died, the South Florida Museum announced on Sunday. 

    Carol Audette, manatee aquarium curator, touches noses with Snooty the manatee in 2001.