Gwinnett County School Board member Daniel Seckinger spoke to a crowd of about 900 teachers on Tuesday at Peachtree Ridge High School at the district’s new teacher orientation program. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
SUWANEE — As a teacher and incoming administrator, Jay Nebel has developed a philosophy about the education industry and the teaching profession.
On Tuesday before 1,200 new teachers, Nebel said three types of advocacy are needed to succeed as a teacher: Advocacy for peers, the profession and students. Nebel was one of several speakers on Tuesday morning at Peachtree Ridge High School at the annual new teacher orientation event. Of the teachers who attended the orientation, 750 are brand-new to the district, while the rest joined Gwinnett County Public Schools during last school year.
Nebel, the 2013 Teacher of the Year, told his new colleagues to seek out positive relationships with others in the building, avoid negative stories about public education and to embrace the little things, as he referenced legendary basketball coach John Wooden.
Compliment students on a new haircut, or new shoes, even if they’re ugly as can be, Nebel said.
“Praise your kids when they do well, connect with parents,” said Nebel, who has taught at Creekland Middle and Norcross High, and is returning to Creekland this year as an administrator. “Relay good news before you call with a negative. You will be somebody’s all-time favorite teacher. Never forget the impact you make on tomorrow.”
One of those students that teachers made an impact with was Will Searcy, a sophomore at Yale University, who made his second straight motivational speech at the orientation event after he graduated from Dacula High last year.
“In a world that is a weary winter, you are that invincible spring,” Searcy said. “I can’t lie and say everything will be great. Days will be long, but years will fly by. You have a responsibility to educate future leaders.”
Central Gwinnett High language arts teacher Gia Sachs joined the district midway through last school year, and said the orientation event offers a positive start to the year.
“It gives us a guideline, this is what’s coming, this is what to expect,” Sachs said. “How we as teachers can impact students every day.”
Hunter Marshburn, a Duluth Middle social studies teacher, agreed.
“It starts everybody off on the right foot, getting everybody excited going into their classroom,” he said. “All too often people are nervous about their first day, (and this) tries to get everybody comfortable with the atmosphere, let everybody know that they’re not alone. They’re not the only ones going through this, this year. First days can be overwhelming, and I like that they try to fill the sense of community, letting everybody know that everybody has a next-door-neighbor.”
As he did a year ago, Searcy brought the teachers out of their chairs as he closed his remarks with a challenge that changing the school can change the community, which can change the county, which can change the state, the country and the world.
“Get fired up,” he said. “Let’s go out and change the world.”