When new Ector County ISD Superintendent Scott Muri began teaching, someone gave him a mouse pad as a welcome gift that said Teacher: You Mold and Shape the Future.
“When I started teaching,” Muri said in remarks to those attending the Odessa Chamber of Commerce’s New Teacher Welcome Breakfast Tuesday, “those were just words without meaning. But the further I went in my career, the more I realized the truth behind those words. So to our new teachers this morning, whether this is day one or you’ve been teaching for years and you’re joining us in Ector County ISD, you absolutely mold and shape the future.”
Muri spoke to about 500 people, including roughly 250 new teachers at the event, held in Barn G of the Ector County Coliseum.
“Research says the silver bullet in education that we’ve been searching for — we actually know what it is — the no. 1 factor that influences student achievement is the teacher. So today, we have hundreds of silver bullets sitting among us. Our kids deserve a great teacher every single day — not good ones, not fair ones, but great ones,” Muri said. “And so that’s my challenge to all of you is to be great because on Aug. 19, 33,000 kids, yes 33,000 kids, will join us. And they deserve a great teacher and you have an opportunity as teachers in Ector County ISD to mold and shape their future, which is also the future of our city, the future of our region and the future of our state and nation. So thank you for joining a really exciting team in a really exciting community.”
The district has about 4,000 employees and there should be 1,900 teachers when it is fully staffed. There are about 1,600 teachers currently, Public Information Officer Mike Adkins said in a text message.
This is the sixth year for the chamber breakfast and about 65 vendors were featured, President and CEO Renee Earls said.
“I know we were completely sold out. We had them in a couple of corners that we really hadn’t planned on just to try to fit people in,” Earls said.
She said some of the new teachers are from Odessa and new to the teaching world, some are from out of the area and some are from Spain.
Earls said the gathering lets the teachers know how much they are valued.
“When they come to the community, we obviously want to welcome them but they also need to find out what Odessa is all about. They need a bank; they need a dentist; they need to learn about the nonprofits where they can volunteer; they need a church; they need a place to buy a car, for instance. … It gives our members an opportunity to tell about their business or organization, but it also allows the new teacher to find out what’s available in the community,” Earls said.
Earls said she credits former Superintendent Tom Crowe for bringing the idea to the chamber.
“It’s been such a success with the district and with the chamber,” she added.
Abby Rankin, who was an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) tutor, was in the Odessa Pathway to Teaching program aimed at enabling the district to grow its own teachers. she will be teaching English at Bonham Middle School.
“We’ve been gearing up over the summer to get ready to go in the classroom. I love it. It’s so good. It’s really hands on. … The mentorship is amazing. They’re with us every step of the way and it’s just really helped my confidence, of course, and it’s really helped me grow into myself as a teacher,” Rankin said.
Rankin said she loved the breakfast. She added that the community never fails to galvanize when they’re needed.
“I’ve been an AVID tutor for about five years, so I’m used to the district but I’ve never had my own classroom, so I’m excited to be able to actually lead my own classroom for once,” Rankin said.
Heather Dolloff, a secondary ESL specialist supporting Crockett Middle School, Permian High School, the Alternative Education Center and sixth grade at Ector College Prep Success Academy, an in-district charter school, is starting her 13th year with ECISD.
Dolloff said she’s excited about the start of the school year Aug. 19. She said the new teachers expressed anticipation over the new campuses they were going to, the new classrooms and meeting their administrators.
“It’s a great place to be today,” Dolloff said of the breakfast.
Devonta McClain, who also is in the Pathway to Teaching program, will be teaching seventh grade Texas history at Nimitz Middle School. Like Rankin, he was an AVID tutor.
“One of the things I thought was really helpful (about Pathway to Teaching) is being in the summer school classroom over the summer and getting to see how some of the things we had been reading about and learning, getting to see how that practically looks in the classroom and then having coaches who were experienced and … able to share their knowledge with us,” McClain said.
The mentors are supposed to stay with the new teachers for two years.
Asked what drew him to Pathway to Teaching, McClain said it was a sign from God and his love for learning.
“I don’t mean just acquiring information. Kids can do that on social media, but I mean like walking through the steps of showing someone how to think critically,” McClain said.
ECISD Board of Trustees President Donna Smith greeted the teachers on behalf of the board.
“I also want to give you one other piece of advice. You guys have signed up for probably the hardest job there is, so this year I have a special wish for you. What I wish is that you be kind and compassionate and patient every single day, not just with your kids but with yourself. We want to keep you for a really long time …,” Smith said.
Rep. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, also spoke to the teachers and staff assembled and expressed his appreciation to them.
“This is the time of year when hope springs eternal. I want you to remember how you’re feeling today because there will be days coming up in the next nine or 10 months that aren’t going to be pleasant. They’re not going to be easy, but what they’re all going to be is very important for you. But more importantly, it’s going to have an impact on your students and you are playing that vital role and just always keep that in mind,” Landgraf said.