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Teachers experience rewards, challenges in their first year

Teachers who are taking on the job for the first time admit that the job can be overwhelming, but many are up for the challenge.

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McManus, a UW-Eau Claire grad who hails from Sun Prairie, had student-taught and worked at youth camps in the past and felt he had enough seasoning to walk into the classroom prepared. Still, there was a moment early on that caught him by surprise, he said.

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"The first day we sat down for morning meeting in a circle on the carpet, this is about 10 minutes after they've gotten there, and all of them are silent and staring at me... and I was like, 'Wow,' here we go," he said.

Van Hefty, who also taught for half a year last year, is a lively teacher, skilled at engaging his students in lessons, O'Reilly, his principal said.

Still, Van Hefty said there were days when his lesson plans missed the mark.

"In contrast to experienced teachers, (younger ones) don't have developed lesson plans created and there is a sense of being overwhelmed," said Melissa Bruce, assistant professor in UW-Eau Claire's College of Education.

Van Hefty said he never let the tough days get him down. He said he wasn't afraid to fail by trying a lesson plan.

"Failure is a good thing if you learn from it," Van Hefty said.

And when his efforts produced a great lesson plan, where the kids were excited about what they were learning like during the Revolutionary War dodgeball, the risks proved worth it, Van Hefty said.

Van Hefty said he loved his first year at DeLong. He is also moving on. Van Hefty accepted a teaching job in Colorado. The De Pere native, who graduated from UW-Eau Claire, said while he loved DeLong he's excited to see another part of the country.

One of the things that has always challenged young teachers is handling unruly students.

"Not only do they have to learn new content and teaching methods, they have to figure out, 'How am I going to manage these kids' behavior?' " Bruce said.

But for McManus, behavior was no problem, he said. He had supervised children before and had a very well-behaved class, McManus said.

What caught McManus by surprise were all the tests. McManus said he hadn't expected so many assessments that track students's abilities.

Bruce said that because of standards coming down from the state, schools are using more and more assessments regularly throughout the year, which can be a challenge for all teachers.

Despite the challenges that face young teachers, Bruce said she believes their passion can pull them through.

McManus said his most encouraging moment of the year came when he saw a struggling student make a breakthrough.

The student had struggled with reading and math, McManus said. But he was able to help him continue chipping away. While still not a strong reader, McManus said he made strides and also became a much stronger math student.

"He just slowly chipped away and he became more comfortable in the class, making a lot of friends," McManus said. "He was having fun and his confidence was up. That was probably the best feeling."

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