New Teachers on the Block

First-year teachers discuss transition into educating

Isaac Hudson, Staff Writer

Every year, BV gains several new teachers. Lots of them are just moving schools; there are only a few brand new teachers. This year, we have two fresh educators: Mackenzie Garber and Jordan Dillon. Garber teaches freshman English, and Dillon teaches Latin.

Going into the first year of teaching isn’t easy, but both Garber and Dillon have found a lot of joy in their jobs.

“It is fantastic. It makes me want to come into school every morning,” Dillon said. “My mood is pretty much instantly lifted once class begins with the students. This year has really reaffirmed that this was the right choice [for me].”

Garber felt much the same, this being her very first semester teaching.

“Some days, when everything goes as planned, I walk out of the school feeling encouraged and excited for the next day; other days, nothing goes as planned and I leave defeated, wondering how I will keep on doing this job,” Garber said. “The key is to realize there are small wins every single day — you just have to find those victories and focus on them while using the losses to learn and keep moving forward.”

For Dillon, teaching was not his first career choice. Up until last year, he had been practicing as a lawyer.

“I was a civil attorney, [which] means we have clients who are sued and who sue other people — specifically, I worked with employments and contract issues,” he said. “[When] someone is fired, or if a contract between two businesses didn’t work out, I was the one sort of picking up the pieces from there. That was my job for about two or three years right out of law school.”

For Garber, however, teaching has been a life-long pursuit.

“My mom is an English teacher, so I was partly raised to be,” she said. “Growing up, I was given numerous opportunities to teach — dance, gymnastics, Sunday school, tennis, French, show choir. I was constantly learning and teaching all the way through middle and high school. All of my middle and high school English teachers were very inspiring, and I wanted to be able to make an impact like they did.”

Most people’s jobs have changed in many ways due to the pandemic. Garber and Dillon are in a unique position, though, having never taught in non-Covid times.

“Thankfully I haven’t had to experience the implications of Covid much as a teacher since I don’t know what classroom teaching was like before,” Garber said. “It’s almost helpful that I don’t know what teaching before Covid was like because I have no comparison to what is different now. The most difficult repercussions of Covid are that it seems students don’t always remember how to be in a classroom, like when they are glued to their technology and forget what classroom expectations are.”

Dillon also said he had not been impacted as much by Covid as other teachers have.

“Surprisingly enough, I thought it actually made it easier,” he said. “Everyone was in this sort of purgatory for a year. Everyone is understanding that people are transitioning [to learning during Covid] because everything is up in the air. It provided a clean slate between what I was doing and what I’m able to do [now].” 

Dillon said his biggest challenge was trying to live up to the standards set by the previous Latin teacher, Joseph McDonald.

“He was very beloved by all of the Latin students here, so one of the first things I did was send out a survey that said, ‘What did you like that Doc did that I can keep doing?’ — my hope is I kept a lot of those things,” Dillon said. “I know I definitely have a different style than he does — every teacher does on a certain level. I hope by now everyone has gotten used to the new style and the new rhythm, and hopefully we can have our own unique and fun Latin program here.”

Garber feels that coming into teaching during the second half of the school year has had an impact on her ability to instruct her students.

“[It is difficult] not knowing what the students already know or learned last semester while trying to build off of that knowledge,” she said. “My students have been very helpful and patient in telling me what they do and don’t already know. They have all been very welcoming as I enter into a totally new place in the middle of the school year and have given me lots of grace as I learn the ins and outs of Blue Valley life.”