New Teachers on the Block - 2019 Hires stand in front of their new home at Altavista Combined School on Aug. 6. From left to right. Back row: Chris Chase, Casey Johnson, Audrey Mullins, Megan Robertson, Julia Kinder, Dave Hageman. Front row: Lisa Dewitt, Joshua Cothran, Katherine Arango, Kimberly Paumen, Ashlynn Morgan, Clark Robbins. Not pictured is Darla McGuire.

The start of another school year signifies new things - fresh pencils, notebooks and clothes, new classrooms, schedules and teachers - or students, depending on the perspective. Altavista Combined School added 13 new teachers to their roster this year, ranging from seasoned educators to first-timers.

Julia Kinder and Ashlynn Morgan are both starting their first year of teaching, and they couldn’t be more excited. Morgan, who will be teaching middle school health and physical education, is looking forward to meeting her students and eager to start teaching. Kinder, the newly-appointed middle school English teacher, is excited about meeting her students and “teaching them how to find their own stories.”

Though these individuals teach different subjects, they have similar goals for the coming year - most importantly, to help their students succeed.

Chris Chase, a biology and ecology teacher beginning his fifth year, says his goal is “to help my students succeed and to build relationships with them and their families.” Lisa Dewitt, a high school math teacher, has a similar goal “to create a lasting bond with my students and watch them grow and succeed.”

It is crucial for kids and young adults to have mentors in their lives, especially those who believe in them and help to cultivate their dreams. Teachers are just the kind of people who are selfless enough for the job.

Clark Robbins, who is beginning his 15th year, will be teaching special education adapted curriculum. Robbins has two biological children and three adopted children. He says he is most looking forward to “being able to help students reach their maximum potential.”

Just as dedicated are those who teach subjects students sometimes find difficult to fully grasp.

Chemistry and physics teacher Kimberly Paumen says her goal for the upcoming school year is “to enable all my students to master chemistry and to get to know and invest in the lives of my students.”

Megan Robertson, a sixth-grade math teacher, wants to create an environment where her students can thrive. “My goal is to create a fun, engaging learning experience in relation to math,” said Robertson. “I am most looking forward to meeting and building life-long relationships with the students and families in the community I grew up in and love.”

Other teachers are focused on inspiring their students to think on a different level and to view the world through an alternate lens.

Dave Hageman, who has been a professor at the University of Lynchburg for the past 11 years, has a full schedule this year at ACS. He will be teaching World History I and AP world history, along with coaching the boys soccer team.

“I want to instill a love of history in my students and show them how history affects their day-to-day lives,” Hageman said. “I also want to help them become better thinkers and consumers of information, so they can make more informed decisions and evaluate all of the info they’re constantly bombarded with.”

Audrey Mullins and Katherine Arango have similar objectives.

“I’m looking forward to inspiring young future leaders to fall in love with the environment,” said Mullins, an environmental science and ecology teacher. Mullins is beginning her first year at a K12 institution at ACS.

“I want to inspire students to engage meaningfully with language,” said Arango, a ninth-grade English teacher who is starting her fifth year as an educator.

School is the perfect place to not only work hard, but play hard as well, and that isn’t limited to the students.

Casey Johnson and Joshua Cothran are both new teachers and coaches at ACS this year. Johnson, who is beginning his 13th year, will be instructing driver’s education and P.E., along with coaching the boy’s basketball team. He is excited for basketball season and looking forward to having “a fun and successful year.”

Cothran will begin his 15th year by coaching football and instructing P.E. classes for grades sixth through eighth. Cothran loves sports and says he is “looking forward to teaching middle school.”

The start of another school year can be scary, especially for students entering middle or high school for the first time. However, students may take some comfort in knowing that some of their teachers are going through a similar situation. A good reminder is that not all new things have to be scary. The year is sure to bring new experiences and fresh knowledge, along with a few brand-new teachers. Good luck to all students and teachers in the upcoming school year!