More than 360 new teachers reported to Grandview High School this week to kick off their careers in the Cherry Creek School District. Among the new arrivals were more than 30 CCSD alums, former students returning to give back to their home district and their larger communities.
A mob of moral supporters anxiously awaited an update from Teresa Newman.
Newman, a graduate of the Cherry Creek School District, had applied for a teaching position at Thunder Ridge Middle School for the 2014-15 school year. Newman’s mother and father – teachers at Village East Elementary and Overland High schools, respectively – weren’t the only ones agonizing about the outcome.
“I had to call my parents because they were in Iowa visiting family. My grandparents were there, my aunts and uncles were there,” Newman said. “When I said, ‘Mom, I got the job,’ everyone in the background screamed. It’s a big family thing for me.”
Newman was among more than 360 new Cherry Creek teachers who gathered at Grandview High School on Aug. 7 for their formal welcome to the district. Some reported for the kickoff of their first year in the profession; others came from teaching posts in other districts. All received a warm welcome during the orientation, a session that included input from Cherry Creek Superintendent Harry Bull. District administrators offered insights about Cherry Creek’s commitment to excellence and achievement at all grade levels.
For Newman and her fellow returning Cherry Creek alums, the ceremony had the feel of a homecoming. A group of about 30 teachers at the new teacher orientation were coming back to their home district. Like Newman, several members of this group had parents working in the district. Their new posts at elementary, middle and high schools across Cherry Creek were part of a familial legacy.
“Dr. Bull was a close friend to my father growing up. He recognized my dad as being a very strong teacher in the district,” said Matthew Meagher, whose father was a longtime teacher and International Baccalaureate coordinator in the district. “It made me proud to be a part of my family,” he said, with strong emotion clear in his voice, “When I came to this district, they made me feel like a great teacher. Here, they believe we’re great teachers. It’s like our kids; if you believe they will be great, they will be.”
That kind of professional support and encouragement was a big motivator for many of the returning alums. Sarah Schreiber, a new teacher at Overland High whose mother works at Greenwood Elementary, said she came back to forge the kind of strong student-teacher bonds she’d found when she attended Grandview. Marie Huntzinger, a new teacher at Falcon Creek Middle School whose mother has taught at Creekside for 20 years, said she wants to establish the same kind of community connections she knew as a child in the district. Erica Padzik will return to Cherry Creek High School this fall, and she said the welcome from administrators and staff helped the whole process feel like coming home.
“It’s just been so comfortable,” Padzik said. “I’m seeing the people who had an impact on me as a student. I think that tells a big story about the loyalty of teachers and students to Cherry Creek Schools.”
Some of the incoming alums were already looking to future generations. Huntzinger spoke of her 15-year-old younger sister and her three-month-old daughter, insisting that she’d welcome either as an eventual professional peer. Emily Hellmer, a new teacher at Aspen Crossing Elementary and a Cherry Creek High grad, said that her 6-year-old daughter was already asking if she would be able to attend “Take Your Daughter to Work Day” at her new job.
“She always says she wants to teach with me,” Hellmer said. “I would be so proud for her to teach in Cherry Creek.”
It’s still years away, but Hellmer could very well look forward to the type of call that Newman made to her family earlier this year.