Last Friday Heather Parsons, a new teacher at South Lakes High School, was sitting in the library, reading over information on school policy and discussing the upcoming year.
"I’m a little overwhelmed," said Parsons, who will be teaching special education chemistry. "There are a lot of things to think about. I’ve got to get my room situated, for one."
Parsons was one of 24 new South Lakes teachers on hand for last Friday’s orientation session. Sitting across the table from Parsons was Delilah Morris, a former attorney who will be teaching special education 12th grade English. Morris said she was excited to meet her new students.
"I have no apprehension about meeting the kids. Well, not yet," Morris said.
David Chase, also new to South Lakes, taught in Boston for four years before coming to Northern Virginia. Like Morris, Chase worked in the corporate world before turning to teaching.
"I just didn’t like the grind," Chase said. "I wanted to do something I was good at, and I’m better with kids. Once you find out what you like to do, you have a happier life."
SOUTH LAKES principal Realista Rodriguez said she is seeing a growing number of teachers making the switch from the corporate world to the classroom.
"Because of things like Enron, and all this craziness with the economy, some people are re-thinking their lives," Rodriguez said.
She acknowledged that teacher salaries may not be as high as corporate salaries, but said job satisfaction is not entirely determined by the size of a paycheck.
"The benefits of seeing a child do an algebra problem are greater than the benefits of a client giving you $1,000," Rodriguez said.
A TOTAL of about 115 instructors will be at the 1,620-student school this year. And each teacher will be assigned as a mentor to a South Lakes student. The teachers will meet with their students one-on-one, and will help with any emotional or personal problems.
"Now that we have succeeded in raising our SOL scores," Rodriguez said, "We want to help those students who are at the brink. It will be individual help."
The student government association is working with the PTSA to organize a vigil on the one year anniversary of Sept. 11. On the first day of school, students will bring home pamphlets of information for both parents and students on how to deal with Sept. 11.
"It will tell parents how to look for symptoms in their children," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes kids are so quiet, you don’t know what’s happening inside them."
The student government is also forming an "inter-club" so that the leaders of different student groups can meet together and coordinate their efforts.
The school is also evaluating and revising its crisis plans. Last year there was a bomb threat at the school, during which the school was evacuated.
"We will be looking at the past, and what has happened at other schools," Rodriguez said. "We will also be looking at other parts of the U.S. We will be studying what they have done."