First Day

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By Stephen Lega

Jim Thomas has worked for Marion County EMS for 20 years, and in that time, he's taught many others how to do his job. But this fall, he'll be tackling a new challenge - teaching high school students.

Although he's used to teaching adults, he has taught children before, albeit small children at St. Augustine Grade School.

"I've dealt with young age children before teaching CPR. They enjoyed it," Thomas said.

Thomas is one of the new educators working in Marion County schools this fall. When the students return to classes Friday, it will be his first day as well. Thomas won't be alone. Other new educators include a counselor at West Marion Elementary and a science teacher at Calvary Elementary.

Thomas will be teaching an emergency medical technicians course. This is similar to the course he teaches to adults interested in becoming EMTs.

"This will be a Monday through Friday, two-block class at the vocational school," Thomas said.

While his adult students have homework, Thomas will be responsible for assigning grades to the work done by his high school students. The course at the technical school will cover the same topics that Thomas covers in his adult classes - caring for the sick and injured, trauma, CPR and physiology of the body, among other things.

While the material being covered isn't new to Thomas, he'll have more time with his tech center students than he normally would with his adult classes. That means more opportunities for hands-on work as well as a few additional duties.

With an adult class, students sign in as they arrive and when they leave. At the tech center, Thomas will be the one taking attendance daily. He'll also be preparing 10 written exams for his students to take during the course (which will run the first two trimesters).

"I'm just fired up and ready to go," he said.

At West Marion Elementary, Sarah Steele has been setting up her office for her new role as the school counselor.

Steele taught kindergarten for three years at North Washington Elementary School. This will be her first year in Marion County and her first year as a counselor.

"Even when I got my teaching degree, I knew eventually I wanted to do counseling," Steele said.

Counseling requires Steele to take a different approach to preparing for the school year.

"Instead of getting ready for just one class, you have to prepare for the entire school," she said. "The biggest part is getting to know all of the students."

Steele said she will be meeting with every student twice a month for guidance. Students who have additional needs will be referred to her by a teacher. She could be working with students on teaching socials skills or helping them deal with personal issues.

"It all depends on the student," Steele said. "Each student has their own special needs."

Like Thomas, Steele is looking forward to the start of the school year.

"I'm ready to get in there and get going," she said.

At Calvary Elementary, Haley Orrender, who graduated from the University of Kentucky in May, is preparing for the start of her career in education.

"I am very excited. I will be the new collaborating science teacher for grades 2-5. I was just recently hired, so I have lots to do before school starts!," she wrote in an email.

Orrender added that she has been welcomed warmly by the staff at Calvary and that she was looking forward to meeting students at the school's open house.

She is in the process of putting together "fun and educational" science lessons, but this isn't her first time working with kids. She has also taught dance lessons and vacation Bible school.

And her own experience as a student will shape how she works in the classroom.

"After having many wonderful teachers growing up, and some not so wonderful teachers, I learned the importance of having exceptional educators in the classroom, and how they can affect students lives so greatly intellectually and socially," she wrote.

But as much as anything, she's looking forward to helping students make connections to the material.

"There is nothing like seeing the look on a child's face when they get it," she wrote, "and that is what drives me and motivates me to teach."