Experience, Energy

Eliot School kindergarten teacher Gloria Habing explains a

Local educators weigh-in on the qualified teacher debate: Are
those with more experience better at the job?
Gilroy – Gloria Habing is comfortable in the classroom.

After 25-plus years as a teacher she’s familiar with the workday, the work load and those kids with seemingly endless energy. Energetic, patient, creative and experienced, Habing seems to personify the educator parents would like to see in their child’s classroom.

It’s true the Eliot Elementary School teacher knows what she doing. She’s taught kindergarten for so many years that she’s accumulated massive amounts of resources and materials. She knows what works and what doesn’t.

Still, Habing said she doesn’t have all the answers.

“Believe me, veteran teachers don’t know everything,” she said during class Friday morning.

The pressure of the federally-mandated No Child Left Behind to eventually phase out all emergency credentialed teachers forced school districts to shape up.

In 2003 the Gilroy Unified School District laid off 33 emergency credentialed teachers. The district hired 11 emergency credentialed teachers during the 2004-2005 school year.

Currently there are only five teachers with emergency credentials, according to the district’s most recent report.

Still, math, science and special education, remain difficult-to-fill areas. Linda Piceno, assistant superintendent of human resources, said that’s usually where the emergency credentialed teachers end up. Piceno will give a teacher-hiring update at the next board meeting. According to NCLB, a middle or high school teacher is not “highly qualified” if they don’t have a background in the subject they’re teaching.

According to a recent study by The Education Trust-West, schools filled with experienced teachers, or educators at the top end of the salary scale, tend to sit in the more affluent areas of town while an abundance of new teachers can often be found where the poor, minority attend school.

Luigi Aprea Elementary School has the highest paid teachers and the lowest percent of poor and minority students in Gilroy. The average salary at the school, which is located in the wealthier northwest side of Gilroy, is $65,255 and there are 16 percent poor students and 44 percent minorities.

In contrast Las Animas Elementary School’s average teacher salary is $58,019, 70 percent of the population is considered poor and 88 percent are minorities.

But Las Animas principal Silvia Reyes said her school has a pretty even mix of experienced and new teachers. She also pointed out that both Brownell Middle and Glen View elementary schools, have a large percentage of low-income, minority students.

Like many educators, Reyes doesn’t necessarily equate experience with excellence. They may lack classroom experience but there are many good teachers emerging fresh from educational programs, she said.

Habing is a big fan of new teachers.

“They’re so excited and eager and they’re not burnt out,” she said.

Eliot Elementary Principal Diane Elia agrees.

“I love new teachers,” she said. “They’re just not jaded yet by the system.”

Habing thinks an even mix of beginning and veteran teachers – which describes the current situation at Eliot and Brownell Middle schools – is ideal.

Brownell Middle School Principal Suzanne Damm said all of her teachers are fully-credentialed this year, for a change. She has three new teachers and two in their second year. Still, even though more qualified and experienced teachers make a school look better in the state and federal eyes, parents have different standards, she said.

“I think people look at the school through the eyes of their own children,” she said.

As a seven-year-veteran the memory of being a brand-new teacher is still fresh in Brandy Davis’ mind. Because her mom is also a teacher Davis was lucky enough to have access to materials and help understanding the curriculum.

Still, she considers herself a much better teacher these days, primarily because she recognizes more “teachable” moments.

“Now a kid will say something and I can make a whole lesson with it,” she said.

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