Burrell District schools welcomed new educators and promoted others to new positions this academic year as students returned to the classroom.
Travis Welch, who previously served as a classroom teacher, is now serving as dean of students at Charles A. Huston Middle School. In his new role, Welch said he works from the assistant principal's office, helping students return to school this fall and working to return a sense of normality to the school year. The role also includes helping maintain the school's COVID-19 protocol. Welch said he is building relationships with students and parents. He assists students who are forced to quarantine after exposure to the virus and helps to provide needed resources.
"It's a really, really challenging time," said Welch, who earned the position after Dr. Autumn Turk stepped into a Central Office role as Director of Curriculum and Development.
Turk, who has served as Assistant Principal since 2016, said she is focused in her new role on professional development for teachers and staff in the district. Through professional learning communities, development programs provide training and materials to assist teachers and staff. She said her goal is to embed professional learning communities within the district's culture. She is also helping educators achieve Google Level 1 Certification this school year and she is developing more personalized professional development programs for staff.
Karley Owens, who worked previously as a teacher in Turkeyfoot Valley Area School District, began this fall as a math learning support specialist at the middle school. She works with students in small groups, providing learning support. She also helps the students adjust to the rigors of school and helps them adapt to the school environment. In her role, Owens said she works with other teachers to help support the students.
"We do a lot of collaboration," she said. "This is the kind of job I've always hoped for."
Amanda Makara, who served previously in the New Kensington-Arnold School District as a fourth-grade learning support teacher, started this fall as a middle school learning support teacher. She works with students with multiple disabilities, including non-verbal children. She helps them with life skills, working on social and motor skills. Makara said she wants her students to feel welcome and to develop positive attitudes about school.
Her goal for her students is that they learn independence and job skills they can use later.
Jaclyn Durick also works with fourth and fifth-grade special education students, focusing on language arts and reading. She previously worked as a permanent substitute and taught for five years at a charter school. Her goal is to see her students grow, not just academically but also socially and emotionally, so they are prepared for the challenges ahead.
"I want to get them ready for middle school," Durick said.
Benjamin Connor, who has taught for six years, began this fall as a science teacher at Burrell High School, including biology, integrated science, and environmental science. He previously worked at Elizabeth Forward High School, teaching chemistry. Connor believes he can help students use science to understand real-world issues they face today.
"Bio has never been more in the news than during the COVID-19 pandemic and getting students to apply what they are learning to the current situation has never been more relevant," he said.
Other educators and staff starting in new positions in the district this year include Ashley Zoloscik, high school science teacher; Lori Cooper, certified school nurse; Kelly Rini, middle school math teacher; and Mollie Sweeney, special education.