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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Aug. 3, 2018 1 month ago

OCPS welcomes new district teachers

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Orange County Public Schools welcomed the county’s newest teachers with its Teacher Extravaganza July 30 at Edgewater High School.
by: Troy Herring Associate Editor

As teachers make their way into the auditorium at Edgewater High School, they are met with a hero’s welcome.

On the front lawn, the marching band puts on a show, while cheerleaders and OCPS employees cheer as the district’s newest teachers walk the red carpet.

This special welcome was a part of OCPS’s Teacher Extravaganza Monday, July 30.

“Teachers are the backbone of our society, and I’m proud to say that we have some of the best teachers in the state right here in Orange County Public Schools,” said Bridget Williams, chief of staff for OCPS. “Everyone in this room is here for the same reason — because you care.”

Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins also welcomed the new teachers. Her speech covered numerous subjects — from school safety to improved graduation rates throughout the county — but of all the notes Jenkins made, the biggest was for teachers to be aware of troubled children and possible hardships that could affect their schooling.

“What I’m going to ask our teachers and all of our adults to do on our campuses is to convey the message to our young people that we care,” Jenkins said. “That’s a very critical message for our young people in this day and age.”

The words of wisdom from the staff at OCPS were welcome advice for those such as Jonathan Benson — who will be starting his new role at Edgewater this year. Taking on the role as a math teacher at the school — where he will teach algebra 2 and pre-calculus — will be a change from what Benson had been doing.

Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. .Barbara Jenkins shared some words of wisdom with the district’s newest teachers.

While working in consumer insights at an Oviedo business, Benson had the opportunity to work with math, but there was something about teaching that drew him to the school.

“I’ve always kind of enjoyed the math side of things — especially statistics — so it was just a natural fit to come over and get to teach instead of work in the corporate world,” Benson said. 

Although there are some pre-start jitters with the new role, Benson said he is ready to begin.

“Having to present to 30-some-odd kids at a time is a little bit nerve-racking for anybody,” Benson said. “The thing I’m most excited about is working with the kids. I’ve coached some youth sports before, so seeing the growth and seeing kids succeed is just always really rewarding.”

Following a short talk from Deputy Superintendent Maria Vasquez, the fun spilled over into the cafeteria, where teachers had the chance to mingle and enjoy some free time.

There, new Winter Park High School Principal Matt Arnold and teacher Austin Boggs had the opportunity to meet others and discuss their feelings on the upcoming school year.

For Boggs, the inspiration to teach dates back to his high-school days — when his television production helped motivate him to go into film and eventually teach. Before jumping into education this year, Boggs had been doing video work for theme parks.

“Just being a new teacher — it’s very exciting,” said Boggs, who teach television production at the school’s Ninth Grade Center. “I come from career technical education, so I’m basically coming from a technical background and going into teaching for the first time. It’s going to be really awesome to just meet the students and get to know the campus.”

Although Arnold himself is starting his first year as the school’s new principal, it’s actually not his first go-around at Winter Park High School. From 1998 to 2004, he served multiple roles at the school — teacher, coach, athletic director and dean. His newest venture is a chance to help lead at a school that feels like a second home.

“It’s been like a homecoming, because I was here for seven years,” Arnold said. “Reconnecting with people at the school and the staff — I already know about a third of the staff — and reconnecting with people in the community. And for me, it’s (also) working together with our team to create the conditions to help all students be successful.”

Troy Herring is the associate editor at the Winter Park/Maitland Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

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