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New teachers eager to start school year
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Jeff Lariscy, information technology coordinator for the Effingham County School System, talks to incoming teachers. - photo by Photo by Paul Floeckher

After 20 years in the military, including a dozen as a helicopter pilot, Brandon Phillips has landed in the classroom as a teacher.

Following his retirement from the Army, Phillips found the inspiration for his next career through his volunteer work with the youth group at his church and as a Boy Scouts leader.

“I just realized that working with kids was a good fit for me,” Phillips said.

After student-teaching in Chatham County last year and earning his early childhood education certification in January, Phillips was hired as a fourth-grade teacher at Springfield Elementary School. He was one of 24 teachers to attend Monday’s orientation for new employees of the Effingham County School District.

“I talked to one (new teacher) earlier who said she couldn’t sleep all night — woke up at 4 o’clock just excited about the school year,” said Superintendent Randy Shearouse. “I’ve been at it for 24 years, but I still get excited about the first day of school.”

Phillips welcomes the opportunity to teach in Effingham County, where his wife works and his children attend school. The family settled in Effingham while Phillips served the final nine years of his military career at Hunter Army Airfield.

Phillips has a half-year of teaching experience under his belt after being hired midway through the 2011-12 year to teach third grade at West Chatham Elementary, but he can’t wait for his first full year as a teacher.

“It’s going to be awesome,” he said.

New teacher Emilee Roberts is also right at home, having grown up in Effingham County.

Roberts will teach 12th-grade English and an SAT prep course at Effingham County High School, where she attended her first two years of high school.

“Things change but the tradition remains the same, which is great,” said Roberts, who transferred to South Effingham High for her final two years of high school and graduated in 1998.

Roberts had already worked in education with Junior Achievement, a non-profit organization that uses hands-on programs to teach students about finance, workforce readiness and entrepreneurship. However, she felt that becoming a full-time teacher would allow her to “be in the frontlines, to make a bigger difference.”

“I feel very strongly about preparing kids to enter the workforce in whatever area they go into, whether it is through college or through tech prep, so it’s a good fit for me,” Roberts said.

The orientation was for all new school district employees, including paraprofessionals, nurses and office assistants. They each received an employee handbook and participated in seminars on technology, curriculum and instruction, assessment, energy management and employee benefits.

The school district has had to cut or not fill some teaching positions in recent years due to budget constraints. However, Shearouse said more teachers retired this year than in previous years, enabling the school district to hire 24 new teachers for 2012-13.

“We had several retirees say, ‘You know, I have my 30 years, I’m going to make an opportunity for other folks,’” Shearouse said. “I know these new teachers certainly are very appreciative of that new opportunity they have.”