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Featuring Betsy Dewey '11
Betsy Dewey
Position: 5th Grade Teacher
School: Armstrong Elementary School, Fairfax County Public Schools
Location: Reston, Virginia
(Profiled: October 2011)

♦  How did you connect with this job opportunity?
♦  What attracted you to this position?
♦  What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?
♦  What has been your biggest challenge as a first-year teacher?
♦  How did your time at GCC prepare you for the teaching field?
♦  What advice would you give to a current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future classroom?
♦  What job search tips would you give to GCC students?

How did you connect with this job opportunity?
My senior year I received an email about an ECS informational session about Fairfax County Public Schools. Mrs. Snyder set up a phone conference with a contact she had in Fairfax County in the Employment Offices. I was interested initially for two reasons: first, Fairfax County was only an hour from where I grew up in Annapolis, MD; second, Fairfax County was planning on hiring 1,000 teachers for the upcoming school year. With so many school districts laying off teachers instead of hiring them, this seemed like the perfect opportunity. After attending the informational session, I was completely sold.

What attracted you to this position?
As I mentioned before, I was interested first because of the availability of jobs and the relative proximity of Fairfax County to my hometown. However, the more I learned about the county the more I wanted to work there. It is one of the largest and considered one of the best school districts in the nation. There is a wide variety of people in Fairfax County from many different cultures, races, countries and economic backgrounds. Teachers are treated well in Fairfax County since they are paid well and have great benefits. There are also a lot of opportunities for professional development and continued learning and teachers are held to a high standard. Since there is such diversity in the county, there is a school to fit any preference and personality.

What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?
I love so many parts of my job, it is hard to pick just one. I guess my number one is having my own classroom and my own students. I love that I get to spend the whole year with these kids and really pour into their lives. They are such a joy and constantly make me laugh. I also love having a wonderful team of other teachers with whom I can work, plan, and even vent. Fairfax County is all about collaboration in the schools, and it has been extremely valuable to build relationships with and learn from all the other staff at the school. They are all so welcoming and helpful. As a teacher, I also love learning and trying new things. I have learned many new strategies of teaching from professional development and just everyday experience. Teaching has been a constant growing process, which has been extremely gratifying.

What has been your biggest challenge as a first-year teacher?
Hands down, the biggest challenge for me as a first year teacher has been parents. Many parents in Fairfax County are highly interested and involved in their child's education. This is wonderful since parents play a huge role in educating their children. However, sometimes it is hard to maintain a balance between welcoming parental involvement and maintaining a role of authority in your classroom. Relationships with parents are an integral piece of teaching well, but it is also one of the hardest to practice beforehand, since student teaching and field experiences do not often have you working daily with parents. However, the important thing to remember is that parents care about their children, and want the very best for them. If you let them know that you want the same thing as they do and build trusting relationships with them, then they will relax and trust you with their child.

How did your time at GCC prepare you for the teaching field?
GCC was wonderful in that they get you in the classroom early and often. This was so important because when I had my own classroom, I was not nervous about teaching. I already had so much practice! Also, by the time I graduated, I knew that teaching was what I loved and what I wanted to do. All of the education professors did a wonderful job of teaching me what I needed to know to be successful. Even at times when I felt bogged down with work, I can see now why all of it was given. Plus, spending my Saturday's writing lesson plans now seems just like a normal thing to do!

What advice would you give to a current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future classroom?
Make a list of all the interesting strategies, tips, tools, lessons, materials or anything that you think you could use or would like to have in your classroom. This will come in handy when you are actually teaching and want to use some of those things. One thing I would recommend is coming up with a behavior management plan that works. Most elementary school students still need this structure, even in the upper grades. Also, learn as much as you can about teaching students with special needs, since that is a major part of any teaching job. I work closely with special education teachers every single day. The school I teach at has a high number of students with IEP's. The more you know about best meeting the individual needs of these students, the better teacher you will be.

What job search tips would you give to GCC students?
First, stop stressing about it. I know you are, because I definitely was when I was looking for jobs. I know the economy is not great, but there are teaching jobs out there. You just have to know where to look for them. Be open to a variety of options, and don't just get stuck on wanting one particular job in one particular place. Look in areas where you maybe otherwise wouldn't. You may not necessarily end up living near where you grew up or near Grove City, but that is ok. Remember, you don't have to stay there forever. Even if you shouldn't stress about it, be proactive. Start looking into districts you are interested in and make a list of the ones that you want to apply to. Start working on your resume and cover letter. If you are thinking about going straight to grad school, research programs that appeal to your interests. I know it seems like you are too busy to do this, but believe me, it will be much less stressful in the long run. Additionally, please make use of Education Career Services. I am not just saying this because I have to, I really mean it. They offer so many valuable opportunities for jobs and for the job search. Mrs. Snyder is wonderful and an amazing resource. Go talk to her-- that is what she is there for. Without her, and without ECS, I would not have the job I have now. My final tip: look into Fairfax County Public Schools! We always need more wonderful teachers!

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