ES-M teacher shares first-day fears, goals for year

Kristen VanBeveren couldn't sleep the night before school started last week. She's not a kindergartner, nor is she a college freshman. Rather, the jitters that kept VanBeveren awake stemmed from thoughts of starting her new job -- as a first-time teacher.

"I always wanted to be a teacher but never thought it was possible," she said. "[I] never thought I could do it."

But at 36 years of age, VanBeveren accomplished her longtime goal. She graduated this May with her Master's in Education from LeMoyne College in Syracuse, and now teaches English Language Arts to seventh graders at Pine Grove Middle School -- part of the East Syracuse-Minoa School District.

"As I matured and had time with my kids, I realized that it was my time to follow my dream and I was ready to put forth that hard work and that commitment and I loved it," she said. "I was ready for it."

VanBeveren was hired in June, which allowed her time to get oriented to the school and staff. Thirty-year teaching veteran Tom Zappala was assigned as her mentor to assist her in this process.

"Everyone was wonderful about showing me around and helping me get acquainted," she said. "ES-M has been great that way -- getting me ready for that first day."

So why the jitters? Like most people in new positions, VanBeveren worried over worst case scenarios: "I woke up and thought, 'Do I have everything in line? Are the students going to like the lesson? Are they going to like me? What am I wearing again?' I forgot what I was wearing!"

Three days into the school year though, VanBeveren seemed anything but nervous. Confident and in control, she had students responding to questions with hands raised in anticipation.

"I always try to relate what we're doing [in class] to their lives and why it's important," she said, recalling her time as a student. "I can remember sitting in classes and saying, 'Who cares? I'm not gonna use this,' so I always make it clear to them that this is a skill and we're going to build on this skill," -- be it in middle school, high school, college, at a job or when learning a trade, she said.

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