New Dayton ISD teachers ‘schooled’ in local history
Every year, Jessica Johnson stands before a room full of new employees and steps away from her role as the superintendent and transforms the ball room at the Dayton Community Center into a classroom. This year she employed many of her instructional strategies to be as interactive and informative as she possibly could.
Her highly engaged presentation elicited responses from new teachers and staff to Dayton ISD at the Dayton Chamber of Commerce’s Annual New Teacher Luncheon.
Each year, without fail, Johnson always begins with a brief history and some ‘useless’ facts as her son might say, about the city of Dayton.
Johnson says it’s an important component that can’t be skipped—ever.
“My parents taught me the importance of community service and building relationships through kindness. As I grew up, I saw both of my parents always giving back to the community, to the church, to the various organizations, and helping their neighbors and friends,” the superintendent said.
It was her parents and many other men and women upon whose legacy the present community stands.
“I am proud of our rich history,” she said.
“Teddy Roosevelt once said, ‘The more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future.’”
Johnson’s passion for sharing Dayton’s history is founded upon her desire for her teaching staff to have a clear understanding of who Dayton is as a community.
“Effective teachers take the time to build relationships and get to know their students,” she told the newbies.
“I believe that we, as adults, should be doing the same--building partnerships at all levels. Therefore, I want our teachers to become involved in our community by shopping and eating local, and attending community and school events,” she said, in other words, immerse themselves in the culture and life of the town.
It was the largest gathering of new teachers, chamber members and administrators since the chamber has been hosting the event.
“We had over 200 for the luncheon and we couldn’t be more excited about it,” said Paula Moorhaj, chamber director.
The lunches are sponsored by businesses in the chamber and Moorhaj said sponsors come from outside the chamber as well.
“We have people in the community who will bring by $10 and sponsor a teacher or some even more than that,” she said. “Everyone wants to help our teachers and it’s exciting.”
Area businesses sponsor tables with gifts on each of them for the teachers.
“Then we’re giving out a lot of door prizes and some of the businesses just go crazy with their gifts,” she said.
Moorhaj said you could tell how much the teachers who won appreciated the sentiment by the smiles on their faces.
The luncheon began with the chamber handing out seven $500 scholarships. The first was to Isabella Jauregui and that one was sponsored by Waste Management, the City of Dayton, and the Dayton Chamber of Commerce. Six other scholarships were handed out to the Junior Ambassadors.
“Each year, they do the tailgate part in August and any profits from the event go straight back into scholarships for those students,” she added.
The large attendance was yet another sign of the growth in the community.
Forty-nine of this year’s crop of new teachers came in the elementary level, 15 at Woodrow Wilson Junior High, one at DAEP, and 15 at Dayton High School.
The number of new teachers is about the same number as last year and significantly lower from two years ago.
“Keep in mind that does include new positions that have been added due to increased enrollment and or to meet new state or federal mandates,” the superintendent said.
While some positions that were vacated through attrition or retirement, Johnson said they absorbed a few of those, but most of the retirees had been replaced.
The attrition rate remains fairly flat and Johnson had a theory for why teachers were leaving Dayton.
“Most of the teachers who leave Dayton ISD are leaving due to one of three main reasons: (1) most of the time, they are taking a position closer to home, (2) some decide to be a stay-at- home mom, and (3) a few are getting out of education altogether. Sadly, there is a teacher shortage in Texas, therefore, it has become a business for some,” she explained.
The district has grown steadily over the last 10 years, since 2008, with the exception of last year where they saw a slight decline they attribute to Hurricane Harvey and displaced students.
The growth, she said, has been manageable.
“It’s trending upward for various reasons, but mainly because the entire Houston/Baytown areas continue to grow, and we are seeing the results of that growth,” the superintendent said.
The district has finished up their last bond and Johnson said she looks to partnerships with the city of Dayton, Liberty County officials, and her board to work together for a good plan for the future of her beloved town.