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Teachers Offer Tips on How to Have a Great School Year

The Austin Independent School District boasts 12,000 employees, who serve the district’s 86,000 students, their families and the community. Among those on the frontlines everyday are AISD’s dedicated teachers.

To celebrate the new 2012-13 school year and to welcome teachers who are new to the district, a few AISD teachers sat down with My AISD to share their tips on how to have a great school year and to succeed in the classroom.

1.    Based on my own experience as a parent and a teacher, I think the most important message we can share with students is that people become good at subjects and skills-- math, science, writing, etc. Students don't have to be 'good' on the first day of learning a new subject or skill. Everything improves with practice and effort. I do triathlons and the first time I decided to do one, I swam across the pool and back and had to stop. Nobody could have told me then that I'd ever swim 800 meters in open-water, but I worked hard and achieved my goal. With anything, it takes daily commitment and practice.

- Sara Brennan
Murchison Middle School
8th grade English
Sara has been with AISD for 20 years. Since 2007, she has completed more than 20 triathlons.


2.    Smile and stay positive. The biggest advice to all teachers is that there is a lot of help and a lot of support available to you. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.

-    Pamela Komnick
Small Middle School
8th grade science
Pamela has been an AISD teacher for five years. This is her 28th year as a school teacher.

3.    Building strong relationships with students is the most important factor for achievement or success. Once those relationships are formed and students feel valued and heard, everything else, including the curriculum, falls into place and is made that much stronger. Just take a deep breath, and make sure you get to know your students.

- Matt Earhart
Anderson High School
AVID teacher and coordinator
Matt is a ninth-year teacher celebrating his seventh year with AISD. He is the 2012 High School Teacher of the Year.

4.    In a notebook I record the things that I have to do immediately, in the near future, and things that I wish I had the time to do in separate sections. That way I can prioritize all of the things I have to do without getting overwhelmed. Over the summer, I revisit my list and do some of the things I didn't have a chance to do during the school year to prepare for the next year! Also, try to greet each student at the door as they enter your room on the first day. A welcoming smile and a hug, handshake, or high five helps build rapport with your students.

-    Stacey Shapiro
Zilker Elementary School
First grade teacher. Stacey has been a teacher for 15 years, all spent in AISD.

5.    My biggest advice is to seek out help from the experienced teachers around you. A lot of times new teachers can feel overwhelmed, and they have to know that they can count on the experienced people around them to lean on. I wouldn’t have gotten through my first year of teaching if it wasn’t for the so many great teachers I’ve known.

And second, remember to take care of yourself. It’s important to learn when to just let it go for a second and leave it for Monday.

-    David Bellesen
Travis High School
Audio/video teacher
David is in his ninth year as a teacher at AISD. He is the 2011 High School Teacher of the Year.

6.    It’s important to give yourself permission to start again and to look at your students and give them permission to start over again the next day. Each day is a new day and when you or your students don’t have a good day you should reflect on how to make it better the next day.  

-    Yvette Cardenas
Pickle Elementary School
One-way dual language kindergarten teacher
Yvette has been with AISD for six years, and is a former Campus Teacher of the Year.