ROCKINGHAM — Remember the first day of school?
Students flooded the hall as they rushed to find their classrooms, and teachers stood at their doors, smiling and welcoming students before the bell signalling the beginning of class.
For biology Teacher Vivian Hilton, that memory is of walking down the halls of Richmond Senior High School 45 years ago — and again this year.
“I love it,” she says of being a teacher in her former school. “It feels like I’m home.
“I left long enough to go back to college, and now I’m back.”
Briana Goins, public information officer for Richmond County Schools, had no numbers for those who return to teach in Richmond County, but she said many did.
“Once you’re part of the Raider family, you want to stay and give back,” she says.
Beginning-Teacher Coordinator Bess Schuler says that approximately 20 percent to 25 percent of beginning teachers have come back to Richmond County after college graduation, which she says is the highest that figure has been in a while.
“Teacher-ed prep is not high across the state,” she says, citing the difficulties colleges have in finding those who want to major in education. “So we work hard to grow our own.”
One teacher in the Beginning Teacher Program is Christopher McDonald, a Hamlet Middle School science teacher.
While he attended N.C. State, he says, he’d come home as often as he could. Now that he will be teaching in Richmond County, he’s glad to be home.
“I love that small-time feel,” he says. “All my family is here.”
That feeling also is something his mom, high school social studies teacher Mary McDonald, can relate to.
“My husband and I grew up in Richmond County, and he already had an established job here when I finished school,” she says, “so I felt that it was important to give back to the community that raised me.”
Shuler says one way the district generates a pool of teachers who want to come home is through the Teacher Cadet program.
Social studies teacher Suzanne Hudson teaches the program at Richmond Senior High School, and her daughter Hollie took part in it when she was in school. Now Hollie Hudson is back to teach.
Students also may participate in internships, teach small groups and craft lesson plans at the schools for which they intern.
Hollie Hudson says her time in the program helped her see how she’d want to manage a class.
“I did my internship with a math teacher,” she says, “and I knew I wouldn’t do math, but I did like how she ran her class.”
Goins also says because a lot of teachers return to Richmond County, it’s not unusual for them to work and teach alongside former students.
Hilton, for example, has taught several sets of parents and students. Two of those students are Charlie Melvin, who will teach science at Rockingham Middle, and Christopher McDonald at Hamlet Middle.
“I really enjoyed seeing both Charlie and Christopher follow their time in college, since they were majoring in science,” she says. “Charlie has a talent for science, and you could see it even (when he was in high school). And I loved getting weather reports from Christopher.”
Suzanne Hudson says she and Mary McDonald’s kids went to school together. It’s neat, she says, being able to share that history with each other.
“Both Christopher and Hollie are going through lateral entry” — a program for people leaving another profession in order to become teachers, she says. “You see teaching differently through them, so it’s been fun sharing stories with them.”
Hollie Hudson says she considers her time teaching as the best time of her life.
“I would hear people say I’ve been called to do something, and I’ve never felt that until I started teaching,” she says. “My mom says I have this glow around me when I talk to about my kids, and she loves it.”
Hollie Hudson say she has “the bug” and can’t wait for her students’ first day Monday — a feeling the other teachers also say they share.
Reach Jasmine Hager at 910-817-2675 or [email protected]