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School system welcomes new teachers

DULUTH - Gwinnett County Public Schools last year built more than a million square feet of property.

The district fed lunch to about 135,000 people and breakfast to about 40,000 people.

But the school system's main purpose isn't construction or nutrition - it's the education of children, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said Friday morning during an orientation for new Gwinnett County teachers.

"Our core business is teaching and learning, and that's where you come in - to join the corps of teachers who really make a difference in this community," Wilbanks said.

The school system has hired 1,048 teachers for the upcoming school year. With about a week before classes resume, the district has three vacant teaching positions, spokesman Jorge Quintana said.

Carolina Serpas, who graduated in May from North Georgia College and State University, said she's looking forward to the upcoming year. She said she moved here from her native El Salvador seven years ago to become a teacher.

"I'm so excited," said Serpas, who will teach third grade at Cedar Hill Elementary in Lawrenceville. "This is my dream job."

Snellville resident Chris Baker said he'll be working at Alton C. Crews Middle School, where he worked as a substitute for a couple of years. He said he decided to go into education after working as a youth minister.

"I love working with students," he said. "I wanted to have a job I felt impacted lives."

Nikki Mouton, Gwinnett County Public Schools' executive director of staff development, said the orientation helps the new hires learn about the district, but it also creates a sense of community.

"Teaching can be an isolated profession," Mouton said. "Teachers would just go into their classrooms and shut their doors ... but that's a thing of the past."

The school system is committed to building a support network to help teachers be more successful, Mouton said.

"We say we want no child left behind and no teacher unsupported," she said.

Gwinnett County Board of Education Chairwoman Carole Boyce said the school board will do what it can to help teachers.

"We believe fully not only in teaching and learning but in the power of a teacher," Boyce said. "We believe in what you are doing each and every day, and we are here to support you each and every day. ... We are committed to your success as well as the success of our students."