New teacher ready for adventure in fourth grade classroom

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Hannah Richardson, a rookie teacher at Pritchardville Elementary School, is ready for her first year of teaching. Just three months ago, she was a student herself, finishing up her college education. EDWINA HOYLE

As parents and children prepared to go back to school - buying school supplies, getting registered, checking on bus schedules, teachers had their own to-do lists.

Teachers are also going back to school, so they had to prepare their classrooms, create lesson plans, and get ready to meet their students.

For some teachers, though, it is their first experience in front of the classroom. Just three months ago, they were students themselves.

"We have a number of teachers who are new to the Beaufort County School District, and about 80 of them are brand-new teachers," said James Foster, director of communications for the Beaufort County School District.

One of the rookie teachers is Hannah Richardson, who was hired as a fourth grade teacher at Pritchardville Elementary School in Bluffton. Her roster will include 22 students ages 9 and 10.

Inside the main office, a large banner proclaims "Pritchardville Elementary School - Where Academic Excellence and Positive Relationships Go Hand in Hand." Already, Richardson has experienced exactly that.

"I love the team and the school," she said. "I feel welcomed and excited and the reasons I decided to come here is how much support there is for new teachers and the professional development opportunities. This is a dream come true to find a school with lots of support and strong team connections."

The school uses a "self-containment" model, in which the teacher in each classroom teaches every subject. Richardson said she loves this model because she enjoys teaching so many subjects, especially social studies.

The teaching team for each grade level shares lesson plans and prepares them together so that all students are taught the same materials.

Richardson earned her Bachelor's Degree at Coastal Carolina and her Master's in teaching at Columbia International University.

She decided to become a teacher because the wants to make an impact in children's lives. "My number one goal is to be a positive role model, to teach my students how to succeed in life and to be good human beings," she said.

As the school year began, Richardson said her biggest challenge would be to lay the groundwork on her expectations for class management within the first week. "I want to instill my expectations with clarity so the kids understand what I expect from them and learn to respect me," she said. She received this sage advice last year when she was a student teacher in Lexington County.

Her internship in Lexington was at a predominately white, affluent school. "Here, I have a really great mixture of diversity and I'm really excited and looking forward to working with kids from such diverse backgrounds," Richardson said. "In my class I have Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Pacific Islanders, and they come from poverty and high-income households. I want to be a part of their lives. In this classroom, they will all find a safe place to be loved, respected and welcomed."

Richardson's classroom reflects diversity just by the way she decorated it. Strings of international flags stretch across the ceiling in all directions. One wall features photographs of her recent three-week vacation in Europe. "I can't wait to share my experiences," she said.

Her travels included stops in Munich, Venice, Florence, Paris, London and Interlochen, where she had the incredible experience of paragliding off the Alps. "The international flags theme of my classroom is like a mini around-the-world trip," Richardson said. "I want to create an environment so kids can ask questions and learn about different cultures."

The focal point of the room is a banner that reads "Let the Adventure Begin," an apropos message to encourage both the students, and perhaps the new teacher, in the classroom.

Principal Brenda Blue said she felt that Richardson was a "good fit for everybody" because of the success Richardson had in her internship, that she was very comfortable with technology and believed in continuous learning.

"We were all first-year teachers once," Blue said, "and we remember what is was like. She's now part of our family and we will wrap a blanket of support around her. She's now part of something pretty cool."

Edwina Hoyle is a freelance writer in Bluffton.

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