First-year teachers prepare to manage students in the classroom

HARLINGEN — Vanessa Alaniz soon will be taking the reins of the program started by her best friend and bringing out the best in students.

“I will be teaching speech drama and debate and coaching a nationally-recognized debate team,” said Alaniz, one of 39 new district teachers who took a one-day training session this past week.

Alaniz was excited to be continuing the work of her friend Tasha Kneis, who created the program at Harlingen High School. Kneis is now creating a new program at Tuloso-Midway near Corpus Christi.

“My goal as a teacher is to produce leaders and push them to be socially responsible,” Alaniz said.

The “New Teacher Institute” was held at the Harlingen school district administration building. The seminar was given to prepare first-year teachers for the classroom. They learned about classroom procedures and how to be effective teachers.

“They’re learning how to set up our classes for a successful year,” said Jennifer Maldonado, teaching and learning specialist for the district. “Some of the things they are learning are classroom management and the district’s curriculum expectations. We provide documents for teachers to utilize while planning effective lessons.”

She said they were also training teachers to provide services for children with special needs.

First-year teachers viewed graphics on iPads as presenters discussed such matters as classroom management and lesson planning.

“Too much talking,” said Venee Harrell, behavior specialist for the district.

Harrell was talking about two common mistakes teachers make in their efforts to maintain discipline. If a teacher spends too much time talking to students about behaving in class, it becomes counter productive.

“It turns into nagging,” Harrell said.

Another problem teachers must avoid is showing too much emotion.

“You have to disengage yourself,” she told them. A sudden outburst of emotion makes a very bad impression. The teacher will have given that student too much power, and he’ll want it again.

“They have been able to create this big splash,” Harrell said of the student.

Some of the new teachers have already been teachers for quite some time, just in a very different setting. Scott Kimak owns Bei Shaolin Kung Fu and has taught martial arts for many years. He’s been studying to become a history teacher for quite awhile, too.

“I am very excited,” said Kimak. “I think it’s a great opportunity to teach kids. I have the chance to help these kids out.”

Kimak, a Chicago native who has lived here since 1995, will teach eighth grade history.

“I have always had a passion for history,” he said. “I wanted to do something that was different, more of the mental aspect.”

Alaniz was also looking forward to her first year of teaching.

“I am grateful to start here because I am a product of this area,” she said, all smiles.

Like Kneis, she’s a 2004 graduate of Harlingen High School. She has a business degree in marketing from St. Edward’s University, plus a bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising. Aside from having grown up here, she feels there are some particular advantages to teaching in Harlingen.

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