Q&A | New teachers

351 new Pasco teachers await schools' opening

WESLEY CHAPEL — Christen Gildard felt lucky to be attending Pasco County's annual new teacher celebration at Saddlebrook Thursday morning. Newly graduated from St. Petersburg College, the 25-year-old Dunedin native couldn't snag a job in her home county which, like most others in Florida, isn't hiring. "Pinellas is on a hiring freeze the end of last year and over the summer, so there's just not a lot of job opportunities," said Gildard, who will teach third-grade at Moon Lake Elementary. "So here I am. I'm actually pretty excited." Pasco has hired 351 new educators this year, fewer than last year but still better than most. Here are a few of their stories.

Christen Gildard, 25, Moon Lake Elementary, worked in preschools before becoming an elementary school teacher.

Why did you want to be a teacher?

"I actually got inspired by some non-examples. … It's sad, but I mean, it's true. We need great teachers right now."

Why Pasco schools?

"Pinellas is on a hiring freeze. … I'm actually pretty excited. Everybody is talking about how Pasco is cutting edge. They use a lot of things I learned in college, where Pinellas doesn't. It happened for a reason."

Michele Ariano, 29, Moon Lake Elementary, worked in several jobs including substitute teacher and photography instructor before getting her teaching degree from Adelphia University.

Why did you become a special education teacher?

"My daughter is in (exceptional student education). That's how I fell into teaching children in ESE. … I really want to be the kind of teacher I envision my own daughter having. I believe in teaching to the student and not to their disability."

Are you ready for the first day of classes?

"I'm excited getting ready to help the children, supporting the teachers and making a difference. … The one thing I'm going to miss is I really don't have a classroom. But it's my first on my own scene teaching position. So I'm excited."

Cecil James, 26, Zephyrhills High, comes from a family of educators — his mom teaches at River Ridge High and his dad was dean of student services at Pasco-Hernando Community College. He grew up in north Florida and recently graduated from USF.

Why did you want to be a teacher?

"I want to shape and change the lives of young adolescents. I chose Pasco County because of their structure. They have a very structured curriculum and it facilitates a good learning environment."

Are you ready for the first day?

"I'm a little anxious, but I'm excited as well, just knowing that I am changing lives and I'm preparing a child for the future. That's the most exciting part. It's not about me."

Joe Huber, 37, Seven Springs Middle, worked in retail and taught art classes at Crafts and Stuff in St. Petersburg before seeking his education degree from USF.

Why did you want to be a teacher?

"I enjoy working with children and kids. It just makes me happy. It's fulfilling and rewarding. … I consider myself a lifelong learner and I like it when the kids get involved and get excited and want to learn more beyond what I'm teaching them."

How important is it to be a male teacher in a middle school?

"I do feel like I'm one of the minorities in the profession. I consider it a positive thing. They tell me they need men in the middle schools."

Angelina O'Hara, 37, Crews Lake Middle, worked as an instructional assistant at Shady Hills Elementary while entering the school district's "Paraprofessional to Pro" program. She just completed her USF teaching degree in May.

Why did you want to be a teacher?

"The thing that drove me the most is the book A Child Called It. It's a true story about a little boy who was abused. That really touched me. I want to do something for the kids that so many people forget about."

What do you want your students to know about you?

"I'm there for them. I'm working with them and not against them."

John Kaczoroski, 56, Rushe Middle, earned his teaching degree at Columbia University after retiring from the New York City police department, where he was a robbery investigator. He recently returned to the United States after working in Germany for the Department of Defense Education Activity.

Why did you want to be a teacher?

"I was involved in a lot of investigations and I felt a positive educational experience for young adults could avoid negative consequences."

Are you ready for the first day?

"You always have anxiety. (But) when that bell rings, you just step up to the plate and you do what you have to do."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

351 new Pasco teachers await schools' opening 08/07/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 6:18pm]

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