Saint Leo University hosts free Beginning Teacher Boot Camp

Beginning educators may feel a bit shell-shocked, as they navigate through their first year of teaching. But a July 25 seminar at Saint Leo University aimed to combat those feelings.

The free half-day session, led by instructor Beverly Ledbetter, was filled with practical advice — in essence, a road map — to help new teachers protect themselves against potential pitfalls as they launch their careers.

Hilary Berbach, left, and Samantha Crumpler are starting their teaching careers in Pasco County this year. They took advantage of the free table of goodies that instructor Beverly Ledbetter brought to use as props in her ‘boot camp’ for beginning teachers. (B.C. Manion/Staff Photo)

Hilary Berbach, left, and Samantha Crumpler are starting their teaching careers in Pasco County this year. They took advantage of the free table of goodies that instructor Beverly Ledbetter brought to use as props in her ‘boot camp’ for beginning teachers.
(B.C. Manion/Staff Photo)

The boot camp, now in its third year, is a public service offered through Saint Leo’s School of Education and Social Services. The university is at 33701 State Road 52, in East Pasco County.

Teachers at the session came from numerous schools, including Wesley Chapel and Wharton high schools, Rushe Middle and Woodland, Seven Oaks, Pasco, Double Branch, R.B. Cox, San Antonio and Wesley Chapel elementary schools.

Nancy Cerezo, associate professor of education at Saint Leo, offered a bit of advice, too. She urged the teachers to seek assistance if they are encountering difficulties.

“If you don’t ask for help, they don’t know you’re drowning,” she said. “Do not be afraid to seek help from people on your faculty, on your campus. Ask seasoned teachers, ask the principal, ask the librarian — ask someone.”

Ledbetter talked to the teachers about what they should and shouldn’t do on campus. It’s a good idea to circulate with other teachers and school staff, to get to know them and to become known, she said.

“Know people’s names,” she advised. “That helps you.”

It’s especially smart to know the school’s bookkeeper, its guidance staff, custodians, lunchroom workers and union representative, Ledbetter said. All of them can help teachers succeed in different ways.

Teachers also should know they will get a supply budget, she said, so they don’t need to empty their wallets for classroom items. However, they must account for how they spend that money, so they should be sure to keep their receipts.

“Anything you buy for your classroom is tax-deductible,” Ledbetter added.

Another piece of advice is how to interact with students.

“Never put yourself in the position to be alone with a student, because you never know what they are going to say,” she said.

If a teacher wants to help a student after school, that’s fine – just be sure another teacher or other students are present, Ledbetter said.

Play it safe when it comes to school attire, too, Ledbetter said. Female teachers must avoid revealing clothing.

Male teachers must be aware of how they position themselves near students. They should avoid bending over a female student, to avoid accusations of impropriety, she said. Teachers need to read their contracts to make sure they know what is appropriate and inappropriate in the classroom.

Some things are just common sense, Ledbetter said. “If you have any doubts about something, don’t do it.”

Technology can be a useful aid to instruction, but also must be used with care, she said. Check with the school’s media staffer to be sure the material is appropriate for use in the classroom.

Also, avoid talking on your cellphone during class, Ledbetter said.

“Be careful of jokes in the classroom,” she added. “You never know how a student is going to take a joke.”

Another concern is how to deal with money, especially since misappropriating school funds is an infraction that can result in losing retirement benefits, Ledbetter said.

“Before you handle student money, know the procedures at your school,” she said. “If you’re on a field trip and a student asks you to hold their lunch money, think twice.”

Hilary Berbach, who will teach kindergarten at Woodland Elementary School in Zephyrhills, and Samantha Crumpler, who will teach kindergarten at San Antonio Elementary School, were among those attending the seminar. Crumpler said she’d already heard warnings about not being alone with children and being careful with money, but she liked Ledbetter’s advice about getting to know the school’s bookkeeper and saving receipts for school supplies for tax deductions.

Berbach liked Ledbetter’s suggested survival kit for teachers. She said she’d never considered how useful it would be to have safety pins around in case a need arises.

Both teachers are eager for school to start.

“I’m very nervous and very excited,” Berbach said. “I want to get in my classroom and set things up and meet my students. I’m so excited to know who my students are.”

A Beginning Teacher’s Survival Kit
Veteran educator Beverly Ledbetter suggests beginning teachers assemble a supply kit to prepare them for that first day of school.
Her suggested kit is not filled with tradition school supplies, such as markers, scissors, glue and paper. Instead, she recommends:

• Sanitizer wipes
• Facial tissue
• Eyeglass cleaning cloths
• Small set of screwdrivers
• Safety pins
• Sewing kit
• Hand lotion
• Clip of keys
• Umbrella
• Peanut butter crackers
• Cough drops
• Bandages for paper cuts or blisters

Published August 6, 2014

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