The beginning of the school year is all about new routines, new faces and new experiences.
But for a couple of new Seymour Community School Corp. teachers, there is a sense of familiarity to their surroundings.
While Seymour students head back to school today, teachers have had a couple of days head start, spending Monday in teacher training sessions and putting the finishing touches on their rooms and lesson plans Tuesday.
Rachel Smith has spent the past six years in classrooms in Columbus and Whiteland. Coming to teach second grade at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School this year, in a sense, is a homecoming.
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Although she never attended Brown herself, Smith, 29, grew up in Seymour and attended Seymour Community Schools through the eighth grade. She graduated from Brownstown Central High School in 2005.
She received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus in 2009 and also is licensed as an English as a Second Language teacher. She currently is pursuing her master’s degree in urban education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.
“I have always loved school and learning new things,” she said. “I jokingly say that I could be a full-time college student.”
That love stems from her father, the late Steve Schrink, who taught and coached for many years at Brownstown Central High School.
“I used to help my dad grade papers and have very fond memories of helping him,” she said. “I was so lucky to experience having him as a teacher as well as my father.”
Being an elementary school teacher requires a few qualities Smith said she inherited from him and her mother, Jeanne Schrink, who still lives in Seymour.
“I am very patient and love being around kids,” Smith said. “I love teaching at the elementary level, as kids are just so much fun.”
She credits her decision to work with younger children to her second-grade teacher at Emerson Elementary School, Mrs. Flinn, who was her favorite teacher.
“I just remember having so much fun in her class,” Smith said.
When it comes to preparing for a new school year, Smith said she doesn’t get nervous as much as anxious.
“Anxious to meet new kiddos, form new relationships and get the year started,” she said.
But it’s still hard to get much sleep the night before, she added.
“I always have silly dreams, or nightmares, about being late on the first day of school or not having things ready,” she said.
She hopes her students learn all of the things they should in her class, including reading, writing, math, science and social studies.
When they leave, however, there is a bigger lesson she wants them to understand and put into practice every day.
“Always respect others and treat one another with kindness,” she said.
Married to D.J. Smith, who also took a new job in Seymour, and raising two little boys, Jackson, 4, and Levi, 4 months, Rachel said she is excited about coming back to her hometown to share her love of learning with her students.
“Seymour is a great community, and I love the small-town feeling,” she said. “I love being in the corporation that I grew up in and seeing familiar faces everywhere.”
The same can be said for Frank Guthrie, who has taught at high schools in big cities across the country, including Chicago, Charleston, South Carolina, Washington, D.C., and most recently Indianapolis.
Seymour may be much smaller, but it’s the only place that feels like home, he said.
“I am most excited about coming home to reconnect with family, friends and the Owls community,” he said. “I have been away for my adult life, and I feel like I’m back home.”
Guthrie graduated from Seymour High School in 1989 and went on to get his bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Indiana University in Bloomington in 1994. He went on to receive his master’s degree in literacy, culture and language education from IU in 2008.
He’s married to Sarah Guthrie, and they have two children, Evelyn and Vonnegut.
“My father lives in Seymour, so I look forward to spending more time with him and for his grandchildren to do so, as well,” Guthrie said.
The path that led him to teaching didn’t start with books. It started with sports.
“I got into teaching originally to become a basketball coach,” he said. “But around that time, I began writing poetry and stories, and I found myself getting as much into reading and writing as I was into coaching.”
He will get the best of both worlds this year at Seymour, as he will be teaching English 9 and helping coach the girls basketball team.
Guthrie said he appreciates the education he received at Seymour Community Schools and has utilized that foundation to get where he is today.
“I had a lot of good teachers at Seymour,” he said. “They helped me to capitalize on my curiosities and helped me to develop research skills.”
When it comes to learning and education, Guthrie said students need to see its value on a personal level.
“The most important lesson that students can learn in my class is that each person should engage in learning for his or her own gratification, and that having a passion for knowing has untold and limitless benefits,” he said.
Amelia Shaw, an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Seymour Middle School, is the new kid in town, in a manner of speaking.
Although she grew up in the area, Shaw graduated from Columbus North High School. She has taught at Northside Middle School in Columbus for the past four years.
“I’m excited to meet new coworkers and students and get more involved in the community,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to working closer to home.”
The first day of school always is exciting for students and teachers, and it sets the tone for the whole school year, she said.
One of the first assignments Shaw plans to give her students is to write a letter to themselves about their goals, fears or anything they want to include.
“They seal up the letters, and I keep them all year,” she said. “On the last day of school, I give the students their letters back, and they always enjoy reading what they’d written at the beginning of the year.”
Shaw said her first two days of teacher training and orientation have opened her eyes to how much local educators and the community care about students.
“It was exciting to learn about all of the new things the corporation is doing to support students,” she said. “I love integrating new technology into my classroom, and we got a lot of useful information in that area.”
Middle school is a great fit for Shaw because the students aren’t too young or too old, she said.
“I’ve always loved working with kids, and I knew I wanted to find a career that would let me be creative and do something different every day,” she said. “I really enjoy working with middle school students because they’re still willing to get out of their comfort zones and participate in fun activities during class but old enough to cover interesting content material.”
But middle school can be tough, too. Students are dealing with much more than just a homework assignment or a test, she added.
That’s why it’s a teacher’s job to get to know their students, take an interest in their students’ lives and to show them they are interested and that they care, Shaw said.
“I always hope that my students leave my class at the end of the year with a positive self-image and the confidence to succeed when they move on to high school,” she said. “But most importantly, I want them to know there’s more to life than social media and their cellphones.”
New teachers at Seymour Community School Corp.
Margaret R. Brown Elementary
Alysha Johnson – special education
Rachel Smith – second grade
Sara Blubaugh – art
Melissa Maxie – BEST
Mackenzie Wieneke – fourth grade
Stacey Teipen – fourth grade
Dustin George – third grade
Sara Blubaugh – art
Seymour Middle School
Amelia Shaw – language arts
Julie Bauerband – English as a New Language
Ellen Gentry – science
Seymour High School
Brittany Darlage – workplace specialist, health services
Graciela “Alex” Sovern – social studies
Katie Ferguson – language arts
Kyle Lutes – assistant band director
Kacey Miller – Math
LeRoy Wilson – Math
Tyler Phillips – physical education
Frank Guthrie – language arts
Dawn Jones – business