Peet staff making smooth transition to high school

Before joining the CFHS faculty, three teachers taught at the PJH facility. Breanna Griffin, Kenton Engels and Eric Rosburg chose to depart from the Peet Junior High faculty and become a part of the staff at the Cedar Falls High School to pursue new challenges.

Before coming to teach at the high school, Griffin taught honors English 9 and English 9. She had never taught at the high school or at any high school before joining the teaching staff at the high school, though during her studies at the University of Iowa, she did her first field experience at a high school, which gave her an idea of what high school instructing is like.

Engels taught eighth grade economics and ninth grade U.S. history at Peet before becoming a part of the CFHS faculty. Engels first year of teaching was at Boone High School, which was a 9-12 building, and he taught ninth graders.

Boone is smaller than Cedar Falls, so some of the class sizes were smaller; however, having it be a 9-12 building made for some interesting class dynamics rather than the CFHS 10-12 building. That year he only dealt with the ninth graders.

Rosburg taught honors algebra 1, honors geometry and algebra 1 before transferring to the CFHS staff. Before he joined the Cedar Falls Community School District, he taught at Gilbert High School, which is north of Ames. There at Gilbert he taught geometry and algebra 2.

Toward the end of the year in 2015-2016, position openings started to be posted for the next school year. Once Griffin heard about an opening in the English department, she immediately started to think about whether she should accept one of the positions.

“I always had thought that I would teach at the high school someday because I was 10 years into my teaching years and thought why not try it. It would be fun to have a change,” she said.

She had a hard time deciding whether to take the opportunity or not because she didn’t want to leave Peet Junior High. “It was hard to think about leaving Peet Junior High because of the great staff there, and I worked there for eight years, but then again I was ready for a change. However, before I could look into the job position further, I wanted all of the information,” Griffin said.

The final decision to join the high school staff and move on from the junior high staff had to be quick. CFHS Principal Jason Wedgbury needed to know within a week of the openings being posted if she wanted the position, so she set up a meeting with Wedgbury a few short days later and accepted the position that day.

The decision was tough, but she knew that she wanted a new challenge and something different. “I was really excited to teach older students, and I was very curious as to what it would be like teaching at a higher level,” Griffin said.

She now teaches English 10 for the first semester, the HCC composition class and comp and rhet.

After the high school created a new job position this year called instructional technology coach, Engels was selected for this new position. This job was created to support teachers in using Chromebooks in their classroom since every student at the high school has one. Engels assist teachers on how to use some of the newer technology with their teachings.

This job was different than teaching in a classroom setting because now he works everywhere in the building. He made the decision quickly to apply for the position and was ecstatic to hear that he was selected. “I was excited to meet and work with new people while seeing former students,” Engels said.

It didn’t take long for him to accept his position because he wanted to challenge himself with something new. He was going to miss Peet Junior High, but he wanted to try to see if he would like this job as well. “Since my new position allows me to be in different types of classrooms, I was excited to say yes to a job that gives me a chance to work with a wider range of people,” Engels said.

Last spring Rosburg also applied to be an instructional coach. His job is to partner with teachers to help students learn at higher levels by creating new ideas and helping teachers use new resources in their teachings. When he heard about the position, he immediately was excited about the position.

“I was pretty excited because I was able to continue the work I did at Peet and do similar things at the high school, especially at a large scale and a different position,” Rosburg said.

It took a little while for him to accept his position because he had met so many great people while at Peet Junior High. “I was sad saying goodbye to some of my friends, but it was comforting seeing and knowing familiar faces at the high school,” Rosburg said.

The job opened up new experiences and allowed him to work with a lot of people, which he enjoys. “I wanted to work with more high school students and teachers because it was another new challenge,” Rosburg said.

However, before becoming teachers in the Cedar Falls School District, all three of the teachers initially chose to be a part of the staff at the junior high. Griffin says, “I really loved working with middle schoolers during summer camps as a camp counselor during my college years. I loved the energy of junior high kids, and it’s a time for kids to be surrounded by teachers who like teaching the junior high with all the changes that occur in their lives.”

Engels had prior experience with teaching junior high kids, so he wanted to continue on that path. “I felt comfortable teaching seventh-ninth graders and was thrilled when I got the call to teach at Peet,” Engels said.

Rosburg had taught at both a junior high and a high school before, so he was excited to get the opportunity to teach a junior high again. “I have taught at both schools, and I enjoyed both very much. There was a position that was open in Cedar Falls, and it was a really good fit for me,” Rosburg said.

Before the new school year began, Griffin, Engels and Rosburg were all feeling very anxious about their new positions.

The students aren’t the only ones with first day anxieties. The teachers have anxiety as well. Griffin said, “I never get over first day jitters. The same thing happened this year because I was teaching a higher level of students and courses. I was extra anxious because of that, but once I started seeing familiar faces, I felt better.”

Knowing how nice the teaching staff is has helped in their transitions to the high school as well. “I knew that the teachers that worked here are terrific, genuine people, so I was very excited to work here,” Engels said.

For Rosburg, he was able to talk to other instructional coaches from other schools who were able to give him advice. “I did everything I could to prepare myself and talk to others around the surrounding schools that have taught this position,” he said. “I got advice on what the expectations were, which made me nervous and excited.”

The transition from being a staff member at the junior high to teaching at the high school has been different for Griffin, Engels and Rosburg.

Griffin teaches writing at a higher level now, and she deals with a different group of students. “The transition for me feels like being a sophomore again. The classroom experience is the same for planning, but how to talk to the high school kids is different. The needs, stressors are different between the junior high kids and the high schoolers,” Griffin said.

For Engels and Rosburg, they both have to learn about a new job position to the high school, and it’s been a little bit different transition for them. Engels said, “Well, since my new position doesn’t come with any classes, the transition has been more focused on my new job responsibilities. I will say it is great to see former students doing awesome things here at the high school.”

Rosburg has a similar transition to his new job. “The biggest transition was less about going from the junior high to the high school, but about teaching in a classroom to being an instructional coach,” Rosburg said.

The high school building is much bigger than what the three of them were used to at the junior high, so they had to adjust a little bit. “It took me longer than I care to admit to figure out the building,” Engels said.

For Rosburg, he came in during his free time to get to know the area. “I thought I would have gotten lost, but I would come here frequently during the summer to get used to the building. I even took a couple tours by [math teacher Josh] Wilkinson,” Rosburg said.

Griffin was used to how separated the building was, especially the “two” basements. She said, “the big difference between the junior high and the high school is that the high school is more separate.”

Besides getting adjusted to the building, they realized how high school students differ than junior high kids. Griffin said, “The maturity level is more seen in high schoolers. Junior high kids have lots of energy, so if you use the energy in a positive way, it makes everything more exciting. High schoolers aren’t as excited when it comes to learning as the junior high kids.”

However, Rosburg sees them both as being similar, with high schoolers having more of an understanding about themselves. “Higher schoolers are more reflective and more serious. High school students start finding their interests and find other people who share common interests,” Rosburg said.

In the classroom, Griffin has also noticed some differences. She said phone usage is difficult to balance at the high school vs. at the junior high, and she also noted that at the high school, there will be times where someone will skip class, which didn’t happen as often at the junior high.

Also, the classes she teaches only focus on writing rather than focusing on everything (poetry, writing, novels, short stories, etc.) Griffin said, “HCC composition and comp and rhetoric are all about writing, which makes it really fun.”

Overall, all three of the staff members said they enjoy their new positions and feel like they fit in with the rest of the staff. Griffin was so comfortable at Peet, but she was glad that she came to teach at the high school because she said that she really fits in here at the high school. Rosburg and Engels are also comfortable with their new jobs, and they both weren’t quite sure what to expect coming into the new school year.

Rosburg said, “I really enjoy being in a lot of content areas, and a lot of interesting things are happening in these classrooms. I like the variety of classes and learning about them.”

All three said their new jobs have exceeded their expectations, and they are very glad that they joined the CFHS staff this year.

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