Columbia County school officials and administrators last week welcomed nearly 60 teachers who are new to the county’s school system.
July 17, those teachers underwent the first of three orientation days Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
The number of teachers hired in the county has gone down about 150 from previous years because of budget cuts, said school system Assistant Director of Human Resources Jerilyn Northcutt.
In March, the school board voted to cut 35 teaching positions and nearly 70 paraprofessionals to save about $5 million in personnel costs. State funding for the 2012-2013 school year was slashed by $13 million.
“The last couple of years when we had to make so many cuts, it’s been about this number,” Northcutt said “We’ve got to take everybody we’ve got and make sure they have positions, so that just limits the number of positions we have open.”
An increase in class sizes during recent years and fewer teachers retiring this year also reduced the need for more teachers, Northcutt said.
About half of the 59 instructors at the induction had no prior teaching experience, while the other half had taught before at different school systems.
“Even if they’re not new teachers, if they’re new to our county, there’s things we do a certain way,” Northcutt said.
Tracy Hampson , a former educator in Arkansas and Maryland, will teach language arts to seventh-grade pupils at Greenbrier Middle School.
She took 10 years off from teaching to raise her children, and was a teacher aide the past two years at Greenbrier Elementary.
Having taught in several schools, Hampson said educators in Columbia County are greeted with strong parental and community support.
County school administrators also set the bar high for teachers to reach certain expectations, she said.
“This (school system) is top-notch,” Hampson said.
Lieghton Huffman will begin her teaching career in August as a fourth-grade instructor of math and social studies at Euchee Creek Elementary School.
“I’m so excited to now be in my own classroom,” she said.
Huffman graduated from Augusta State University in 2010 with a degree in early childhood education and was a paraprofessional at Euchee Creek last year.
Huffman said she’s always felt passionately about teaching and could relate easily to children.
A 2006 Evans High School graduate, Huffman said her No. 1 goal is to inspire every child who walks into her classroom.
“I want to reach those kids that sometimes get left behind,” she said.