The start of the school year means a new crop of educators eager to begin their teaching careers and some veteran teachers finding new schools where they hope to make a difference.
Seymour Community School Corp. welcomed 20 new teachers last week. They arrived early Monday morning, two full days before students, to prepare their classrooms, their lesson plans and their nerves.
Rhiannon Castetter, Natalie Smith and Erica Kelly are three of those new teachers.
Castetter was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years and then served as a substitute teacher for two years. She enjoyed the work so much, she decided to go back to school herself and get her degree in education so she could have her own classroom.
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While pursuing her degree through Western Governors University, she gained more experience as a preschool aide and Title I tutor at St. Ambrose Catholic School and completed her student teaching with kindergarten teacher Suzi Fallis at Cortland Elementary School.
“As a substitute teacher, I loved being able to spend time in the classrooms,” Castetter said. “I enjoyed seeing students learn and develop a love of learning. I also enjoyed working with all abilities of students. My heart is definitely in teaching, and I feel like I am right where I belong.”
Now, Castetter is a fourth-grade teacher at Seymour-Redding Elementary School.
“I loved Seymour schools as a sub,” she said. “I love the atmosphere, the great staff and the love of learning that is passed on to our students. I was so excited to be offered a position at Redding. They have an outstanding staff and administration. It makes it easy to love your job when you love the people you work with.”
Although she was a little nervous about the first day with her students, Castetter said she was able to meet most of them on Back to School Night on Aug. 7, which made it easier.
She also said Seymour Community School Corp. does a great job of welcoming new teachers and helping them get ready through a new teacher orientation.
“It was nice to meet other new teachers coming in at the same time as me,” she said.
Castetter said she credits her desire to become a teacher to two “very memorable teachers” in her life — her third-grade teacher, Barb Johnson, from Hope Elementary School and Arnold Ellison, her high school agriculture teacher and FFA leader.
“I moved to Hope in third grade after being in several elementary schools,” Castetter said. “Mrs. Johnson made it a goal to get me on track where I needed to be. She gave me more than an education. She made me believe in myself.
“Mr. Ellison helped me develop character that would one day help me lead my own classroom,” she said. “He showed such compassion for all students, no matter what they were going through.”
Her students will learn many “scholarly” lessons this year, but there are some teachings that are even more important, she said.
“I want my students to come away from fourth grade with a love of learning,” she said. “I want them to feel like our classroom community has helped them become a better student and that they will pass that positivity around to all that they come into contact with. This is where the power of kindness for one another starts.”
Smith comes to Seymour Community School Corp. from Columbus, where she taught sixth grade and fourth grade at Columbus Signature Academy Fodrea. Before that, she spent two years teaching sixth grade at Highland Middle School in Anderson.
She is now a science teacher at the Seymour Sixth Grade Center.
“Having taught fourth grade last year, I’m excited to move back to the middle school setting,” she said. “I’ve already felt so welcomed and valued, and I’m looking forward to collaborating with such a passionate staff.”
Her inspiration for becoming a teacher came from her eighth-grade language arts teacher, she said.
“(She) showed me that it is never too late to learn,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter where you are, you’re always able to move forward.”
Smith said she only had one hope for the first day of school, and that was to be able to sleep the night before.
“As a teacher on the first day, nothing you plan will pan out,” she said. “Getting a good night’s rest is the best defense against the mess that is the first day of school.”
Being able to spend time meeting other Seymour teachers and administrators beforehand through the new teacher orientation process also helped, she said.
“It was great to meet so many other facilitators who are just as passionate as I am about improving the lives of our students,” she said.
Sixth grade isn’t an easy age to deal with sometimes, but Smith said she enjoys the challenge.
“Middle school students are spunky and full of life,” she said. “They’re fun to work with, but they still need the teacher for support. There is so much that they still need to work with. Hopefully, my students will learn to find confidence in their abilities, no matter where they are.”
Kelly, a new Seymour High School math teacher, is no stranger to the classroom, as this is her 10th year of teaching.
Being the wife of new football head coach Michael Kelly, she has the opportunity to get to know a variety of students and to be involved in both academics and athletics at the school.
“I am excited to be part of the community and work with the staff at Seymour High School,” she said.
Before coming to Seymour, Erica spent one year at Jay County High School in Portland, two years at Central Hardin in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and the last six years at Fishers High School.
“I wanted to be a teacher because I enjoy working with teenagers and desire to help them become men and women of character and integrity,” she said. “I chose math because it has always been my favorite subject.”
When it comes to teachers she has had and respected, Kelly said her fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Bell, left the biggest impression on her.
“(She) had an amazing personality,” Erica said. “She made coming to school fun. She always had a smile on her face and a kind word to share.”
Even though she has been teaching for nearly a decade, Kelly said she still gets nervous for the first day of classes, especially at a new school.
“I always get the first day of school jitters and have trouble sleeping the night before, but mostly from anticipation and excitement to be back in the classroom,” she said.
Math may be the subject she teaches, but Kelly said all teachers are responsible for teaching their students much more.
“I hope that when students leave my classroom, they not only have improved their math and problem-solving skills, but they have also learned how to be a better person that can positively contribute to society,” she said.
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New teachers and certified staff at Seymour Community School Corp.
Jackson County Learning Center: Edward Wagner, alternative education
Seymour High School: Randall Rothbauer, Spanish and English as a Second Language; Adam Wolka, ESL; James Crenshaw, business; Jessica Meek, special education; Michael Kelly, physical education; Erica Kelly, math; Beno Chappell, health and conditioning; Steven Wolfenbarger, language arts; and Karen Brigdon, special education
Seymour-Redding Elementary School: Kelsey Nolting, special education; Rhiannon Castetter, fourth grade; Heidi Wagner, fourth grade
Margaret R. Brown Elementary School: Sarah Millikan, speech and language pathologist; Amanda Wilp, special education
Seymour Middle School: Steven Wathen, special education
Seymour-Jackson Elementary School: Jordyn Henkle, first grade
Seymour Sixth Grade Center: Samantha Browning, guidance counselor; Haley Davis, ESL; Natalie Smith, science
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What grade/subject do you teach? Fourth grade at Seymour-Redding Elementary School
Educational background/work experience? I was a substitute teacher for two years and decided to go back and get my degree in education. While going to school, I was a preschool aide/Title I tutor for St. Ambrose Catholic School with Sharon Eggers.
Outside interests/hobbies? I love to read and bake. I also enjoy watching my children play sports.
Family: I am married to Bill Castetter. We have three children, Avery, Sam and Addy J.
What grade/subject do you teach? Sixth-grade science
Educational background/work experience? I spent two years teaching sixth grade in Anderson immediately out of college. I moved to sixth grade in Columbus at CSA Fodrea and spent last year teaching fourth grade at Fodrea, as well.
Outside interests/hobbies? Fishing, softball and going to the racetrack.
Family: Husband, Michael Smith; son, Hudson Smith, 2 months old); pet Pug named Leeloo
What grade/subject do you teach? Math
Educational background/work experience? Bachelor’s degree from Taylor University and master’s degree from Western Kentucky University. This is my 10th year teaching.
Outside interests/hobbies? I enjoy reading, gardening and spending time with my family.
Family: Spouse, Michael Kelly, new head football coach at SHS; three children, ages 9, 8 and 4.