New teacher orientation

New DeSoto County Schools teachers Rashonda Riley (left) and Joy Welch chat during breakfast in the Horn Lake High School cafeteria ahead of New Teacher Orientation Friday morning. Riley is an English Language Arts teacher at Horn Lake Middle School and Welch will teach science at DeSoto Central High School.

The first day of the education year started a little earlier on Friday for about 270 new employees of Mississippi’s largest school district. They were the ones being educated and not doing the educating, however.  

The group is the newest addition to the rolls of DeSoto County School District (DCS) teachers who gathered at Horn Lake High School for the district’s New Teacher Orientation session. They spent the morning at Horn Lake to hear about district procedures and expectations and, after lunch, followed that with more information given them by administrators at their individual school campus.

The new teachers range from those fresh out of college and at their first school to others who have been in teaching before but are part of DCS for the first time.

Among the instructors entering the classroom for the first time is Joy Welch, a science instructor at DeSoto Central High School.  She comes with good recommendations given her about the district from family members who were also in education.

“My aunt started her first year of teaching at Southaven Middle School and thought it was the greatest school ever,” Welch said. “My uncle went to Lake Cormorant, so when I told them I was going to start teaching, they said I should try looking at DeSoto County Schools. It’s a great school system, especially for first-year teachers. Everyone’s really friendly and loves to help.”

Another new teacher in DeSoto County Schools this year is Rashonda Riley, an English Language Arts instructor at Horn Lake Middle School. Riley comes to DeSoto County Schools from Birmingham, Alabama, where she was also in education.  

“It was an extremely diverse school and I’m going to miss it but I’m excited about being here as well,” Riley said about her former classroom.  

During the morning session, teachers were told about district policies and expectations, they were introduced to School Board members and Supt. Cory Uselton stressed the importance of the career they are a part of.

“We’ll talk to them about how great of a profession that they’re about to enter,” Uselton said. “There will be great days and some days that’ll not be as great as others, but at the end of the day, they are entering a profession where they have an opportunity to impact the lives of their children on a daily basis.”

The morning also included an appearance by Chelonnda Seroyer, who Assistant Supt. Jennifer Weeks said would be talking about the importance of the first days of class setting the tone for the rest of the year.  
“What she will focus on with the teachers is developing classroom procedures,” said Weeks. “If you spend time at the beginning of the year making sure all of your procedures are in place, all of the other things will flow so much more easily.”

Seroyer has used tenants of educational expert Dr. Harry Wong successfully in her classroom, has worked with Wong and speaks about classroom management.  

Preparation is what Welch said she is trying to focus on as she gets ready to face her students for the first time.  
“I’m just trying to get myself well-prepared so the kids can have a great experience and I can have a great first year as well,” Welch said.  

Riley said she is also aware that things are done differently in each school district so she is anxious to learn about DeSoto County Schools.  

“I think the largest challenge is trying to make sure I don’t bring any preconceived misconceptions to a place and to make sure I am open to change,” Riley said. “It can be a challenge when you’ve been teaching for a number of years. I am making sure I am open to any changes that need to be made.”

Uselton said he is looking forward to the new school year with the group of instructors who are part of DeSoto County Schools.  

“We’ve got a great group of new teachers coming in to join an excellent group of returning teachers,” Uselton said. “The sky’s the limit.”  

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.  

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