Returning to the fold
Charles County grads come back as new teachers in school system
Approximately 200 new teachers from all over the country will be greeting Charles County Public Schools students when they return to class Monday. But for some new instructors, the first day of school will be a homecoming of sorts.
When Lindsey Watson, a new special education teacher at the F.B. Gwynn Education Center, reported for new teacher professional development Aug. 15, the instructor was her first grade teacher, Kim Hudler, now lead reading specialist for elementary education.
In addition, her first grade classmate Brooke Garner was also in attendance. Garner is starting as a fifth grade teacher at William Diggs Elementary School this year.
“I didn’t know if I should go with how old that made me feel, or how honored, but I decided to go with how honored,” Hudler said. “They grew up here and they came back and want to give back to the community where they grew up.”
On Monday, the school system announced it has hired 197 new teachers for the school
Last year, the school system’s human resources department reported that approximately two-thirds of new hires came from out-of-state. Figures for the current crop of new hires will not be available until later in the school year, according to school officials, but human resources reported to the school system that it was working to encourage more alumni to return to Charles County to teach.
Watson described coming back to the county for work as a dream come true.
“I always wanted to come back and I always wanted to work at the Gwynn Center, but I never expected they’d have any openings,” Watson said. “I lucked out.”
Watson has ties to the Gwynn Center as well. Her grandmother, Joyce Monroe, had been a school nurse there before she retired.
Watson said she has known she wanted to be a teacher since she was in the eighth grade.
“I had a lot of teachers I really admired, and I thought it would be cool to grade papers and be the one in charge,” recalled Watson, a 2011 La Plata High School graduate.
Watson, who graduated from Towson University last May, said the transition to becoming a teacher is easier in a school system she already knows.
“It was a comfort to be able to come back to somewhere I knew all the names and places. Charles County has such great schools, so to be a teacher here is really kind of cool,” Watson said.
Garner, Watson’s former first grade classmate, set up her classroom this week with help from her grandmother, Robin Pigott, who visited from North Carolina for the occasion.
“I’ve been putting my curriculum together, my lesson plans together, put my room together, with my Nana. I couldn’t have done any of this without her,” Garner said.
Garner said she has wanted to become a teacher for as long as she could remember, and that Hudler was an inspiration for her.
“She kind of sparked my interest in teaching,” Garner said. “She was just a phenomenal teacher.”
Garner graduated from Thomas Stone High School in 2011.
While completing her degree through Towson’s “2-Plus-2” program with the College of Southern Maryland, Garner did her student teaching in St. Mary’s County.
“Now that I’m here, though, I love it, I love my team and it’s been great so far, these last two weeks,” Garner said.
Garner said that after 13 years as a student in Charles County, she’s now ready to be on the other side.
“I’ve loved a lot of my teachers growing up, so I just hope that my students will have the same respect and love for me,” Garner said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the curriculum, but in my mind, it’s more about making an impression on the kids, even if it’s only one kid.”
For Joseph Evans, a new eighth grade science teacher at Mattawoman Middle School, the halls he now walks are eerily familiar. Evans attended Mattawoman himself before going on to graduate North Point High School in 2011.
Evans said education wasn’t his first career choice, but after one semester majoring in sports management, he knew that field wasn’t the right fit for him. Evans said the influence of his teachers at North Point and then-Principal Kimberly Hill, now superintendent for the school system, made him realize what he wanted to do most was pursue education.
“I saw how my teachers had impacted me and helped me get on the right path,” Evans said.
Evans worked as an instructional assistant for the school system while studying online to get his teaching degree. He actually began at Mattawoman last year as an instructional assistant, but this year will be his first as a teacher.
Evans said he never considered teaching anywhere other than Charles County.
“I always knew I wanted to work in the school district that did so much for me, that I graduated from. I know the community, and basically, what my teachers did for me, I want to do for the next generation in Charles County,” Evans said.
Down the hall from Evans, Jay Jordan was settling in as Mattawoman’s new choral music teacher.
Jordan also grew up in Charles County, graduating from Henry E. Lackey High School in 2008.
“Chuck County, born and raised,” Jordan said.
Jordan said he realized he wanted to become a teacher attending Lackey.
“When college time was rolling around, I figured I’d do something that played to my strengths, and do something that I enjoyed, which was music, and my music teachers had the biggest impact on me,” Jordan said. “So I thought I could be that influence for someone else, and why not do that in Charles County, where I grew up?”
Jordan said his music teacher Kristen Liston was a huge influence on his decision to go into teaching. Liston, now at Milton Somers Middle School, is serving as Jordan’s teacher mentor this year.
“She was there for me, for academics, for personal stuff, she impacted my life very much,” Jordan said.
Jordan, who graduated from Towson in 2014, served as a long-term music substitute at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School before going to Baltimore County, but said it was always his goal to teach in Charles County.
“This has been a longterm dream come true. I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true for me,” Jordan said. “No matter what people say about Charles County, good or bad, it is where I got my education; everything that I’m able to do, I learned in this school system, in this community. So I feel that if I was to give back to anyone … why not to the area that helped make me who I am? Why not help make it better?”
Choral music teacher Jay Jordan stands in the doorway of his classroom at Mattawoman Middle School. Jordan is a graduate of Henry E. Lackey High School.
Fifth grade teacher Brooke Garner in her classroom at William Diggs Elementary School. Garner is a 2011 graduate of Thomas Stone High School.
Science teacher Joseph Evans feeds his class turtle in his classroom at Mattawoman Middle School. Evans, who attended Mattawoman in sixth grade, is a 2011 graduate of North Point High School.