Teachers Return for Fall 2020

Teachers at West Ward and across KISD began the school year.
By: Todd Martin
Five months after an unexpected, abrupt early end to the school year, Killeen ISD teachers returned Wednesday to the district’s 50-plus schools.
After 226 new teachers began Tuesday, the rest of the district’s 2,787 or so teachers joined them to begin nine days of professional development to prepare for a unique, new school year that starts virtually Aug. 17.
At West Ward Elementary School, Principal Tammy Thornhill praised her 59 staff members and offered words of challenge and motivation, urging all to be quick to extend grace to parents and children desperately ready to return to class.
“I believe this will be our finest hour,” she said to the assembled teachers – wearing protective masks - in the school cafeteria.
Across KISD this week, a total of 6,308 employees are officially back on contract, including 2,787 teachers. The district is welcoming about 260 new professional employees.
Before sharing with staff members details of safety protocols like distancing and wearing masks, the West Ward principal spoke from the heart. She said the experience of extended school closure brought personal conviction.
Staying in touch with parents and staff members and particularly seeing families continuing to come for free “Grab & Go” meals gave her strength to let go of the uncontrollable factors of COVID-19 and to focus on children.
“Today needed to be different,” Thornhill said of the return, “but I needed to be real for them. I really believe this will be our finest moment in education and in KISD. They are taking it seriously. They are present. They are engaged. They have been giving me support. I am super excited.”
In a stress-relieving, team-building moment, each grade level gathered together and chose the person with “the biggest mouth.” That group stood in front and stuffed their mouths with marshmallows and said the words “synchronous and asynchronous,” words describing lessons that are live or recorded.
Every staff member introduced themselves and told how many years they have worked at West Ward, one of several KISD schools entering its final year before moving into new schools in 2021.
English Language Learner teacher Julia Sellers, entering her 30th year teaching said she was relieved when she found out KISD was going to begin Aug. 17. “We have to get started,” she said.
“We’re a team and we have to do it together,” she said. “We will be flexible and learn together. I was excited to get to help out during registration and encourage the parents. I love that the district’s first concern is keeping everyone safe.”
First-grade teacher Amy Hartung, entering her fifth year teaching said she was ready to see her students.
“I’m ready to get going,” she said. “I miss my kids. Our focus is to get ready to give them what they need. I know a lot of them are more than ready to come back. They need us.”
Beginning Aug. 17, KISD teachers will instruct from their classrooms as students engage virtually through Seesaw and Schoology learning platforms. Following Labor Day, Sept. 8, students will have the option to return to face-to-face instruction.
The school district is preparing devices to distribute to families who need them, along with school supplies.