Wake County Schools

Teachers turn attention from protests back to classrooms

Posted August 16, 2013 7:01 p.m. EDT
Updated August 17, 2013 6:55 a.m. EDT

— A summer break full of rallies and protests has faded into the mid-August rush by teachers and school administrators to prepare area classrooms for returning students.

On Friday, the gym at West Cary Middle School was full of energy and team-building activities as the staff readies for the start of the 2013-14 school year on Aug. 26.

"I'm just trying to find things. I'm just trying to reacquaint myself with things," said Heather McGarry, who is beginning her 19th year as a teacher. "It is like a student – it's fear of the unknown, it's the excitement."

This year's excitement is somewhat tempered. Many teachers are frustrated, starting another school year without a pay raise. Lawmakers also stripped the tenure rights of veteran teachers like McGarry.

"I can't think of the words to describe how frustrating it is," she said.

West Cary Middle Principal Wanza Cole said she is trying to focus on the positive and the task at hand.

"(Let's) put the students first, and let's help them," Cole said. "We all know that (the seeming lack of legislative support) is an issue, and we're not minimizing it at all."

To support the faculty and uplift morale, West Cary Middle has a social calendar.

"We're going for an ice cream social at the end of August, and then we're going bowling and then we're going out to eat," Cole said. "We love to eat at West Cary, and so, we are embracing it by doing something together."

As a first-year teacher, Norris Collins said he is just excited to be at the school, where he will teach sixth-grade science.

"The students (were) my favorite part of my student teaching," Collins said. "(It) was just the relationships you build and help impact students' lives."

That's what seems to keep teachers coming back year after year, despite the frustration.

"I feel like this is where I belong, and I love what I do," McGarry said. "I love what I do. I just wish I could make a living wage for what I do."