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Learning to teach

January 23, 2002

Gary Moskowitz

RANCHO DISTRICT -- It's the illumination of the imaginary light bulb

that Heather Reichard sees above her students' heads when they understand

a lesson that makes the local teacher love her job.

Reichard, a second-year sixth-grade language arts/social studies

teacher at Luther Burbank Middle School, was one of about 50 first- and

second-year teachers to recently attend a new teacher support meeting.

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With teacher training high on the list of its priorities for 2002, the

Burbank Unified School District is working to get new teachers up to par

with district and state standards.

"When you're new, you can think you're doing a million things wrong,

but here at these meetings, you feel normal. It's a confirmation," said

Reichard, 25.

Teachers like Reichard are paired with more experienced teachers in

the Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment Program. They meet each week

for an hour to go over individual learning plans.

The plans give new teachers short- and long-term goals for the year

and encourage them to reflect on their progress. There are 49 new

teachers in the program.

Cate Conwell's goal by month's end is to get herself two weeks ahead

in lesson-planning. Conwell, a fourth-grade teacher at Joaquin Miller

Elementary School, regularly comes to work about two hours early to get

homework ready, stays about two hours after school and regularly takes

work home.

"It's easy to get caught up in one lesson, but what I have learned is

to sort through lessons, pull out key points and try to budget time,

which is limited," said first-year teacher Conwell, 22.

Kim Anderson, coordinator of professional development for the

district, said reports released by the California Commission on Teacher

Credentialing show that 30% of new teachers leave the profession in their

first two years and more than half leave after five to seven years.

The same report states that due to class size reduction, the teaching

work force should increase by about 68,000 in the next 10 years.

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