The Davis school district welcomed about 90 new teachers and staff — the largest group of new hires in many years, perhaps the most ever — at a gathering Friday morning at the district’s administrative office. The sun was shining, the district’s central kitchen had provided a breakfast buffet and the superintendent and the school board president were on hand to deliver a pep talk.
“On Wednesday, around 8,600 students are going to bust through those doors” at schools around the district, Superintendent Winfred Roberson advised the new hires. “You are going to have fun, and you are going to learn,” in addition to providing instruction to the students, he added.
Board president Gina Daleiden wished the new hires “Happy New Year!,” referring to the new academic year. “Thank you for all the work you are about to do,” she added.
Why so many new hires? Last spring, dozens of veteran teachers accepted a retirement incentive, and the district also added 15 new elementary teaching positions as part of its effort to reduce class sizes, which had crept upward during the state budget crisis.
The schools also could be welcoming an additional 100 students this fall, which has triggered a few additional hires as well. Plus there is the inevitable “churn factor,” as teachers take a leave of absence, return to college to earn an advanced degree or take a job in another district or in the private sector.
Among the new hires at Friday’s breakfast session:
* Nat Sternbergh, who will teach eighth- and ninth-grade English at Da Vinci Charter Academy at Emerson Junior High. Sternbergh taught in Reno several years ago and moved to Davis because his wife was pursuing a Ph.D. at UC Davis.
He has been a substitute teacher and paraeducator at Emerson for a couple of years, and also spent a year in Paris while his wife was doing research there. He studied creative writing at the University of North Carolina in Asheville.
“Teaching English at Da Vinci is kind of my dream job,” Sternbergh said enthusiastically, adding that he looks forward to working with students on texts including George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” Lois Lowry’s “The Giver,” an updated version of the Old English epic “Beowulf,” Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet,” and more.
* Javier Rojo, who will teach sixth grade at Montgomery Elementary. Rojo has been teaching for two years in the Auburn Union School District in Placer County; he earned his teaching credential through Sacramento State. He grew up in the Klamath Falls area in southern Oregon.
Rojo said that when he meets his new students Wednesday, he will focus on helping them “get to know me, and know each other. … I hope they come to school ready to share.”
* Kala Ebbe, who will be a counselor at Da Vinci Charter Academy’s junior high branch at Emerson. This is her second year working as a counselor — last year, she was in Blackfoot, Idaho.
Ebbe grew up in Minnesota and did her undergraduate studies at Hamline University in St. Paul and she did her graduate studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland. “I love working with junior high students,” Ebbe said, “and help them navigate their growing self-awareness.”
* Ramona Torres, who will teach first grade at Montgomery Elementary in the Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Program. Torres grew up in the Capay Valley and is a graduate of Esparto High; she then earned a degree at UCD and worked as a teacher at Dingle Elementary in Woodland.
“I am excited about the new school year,” she said. “On the first day of school, the new first-graders come in as kindergartners. But they really surprise you with their progress.”
* Carolina Piña, who will teach second grade in the Spanish Immersion Program at Chávez Elementary. She grew up in the Coachella Valley, then attended UCD, earning a bachelor’s degree in human development and a teaching credential (doing her student teaching at Chávez). This is her first teaching job.
“I’m excited, even though I am going to have some first-day jitters,” she admitted. “But I think some of the students will have first-day jitters, too.”
Her plans for the first day will include at least a little bit of singing and dancing — activities that she knows many Chávez students enjoy.
* David Davenport, who will teach French and provide English as a Second Language support at Harper Junior High. Davenport is an experienced teacher, having worked at schools in Nebraska, North Carolina and elsewhere. He also has lived in the French-speaking portion of Belgium, and spent a summer in the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec. He’s also visited France.
Davenport moved here from Michigan over the summer; he is completing work on a Ph.D. in education through Michigan State University.
“I really like working with junior high students, they have a lot of enthusiasm,” he said.
* Byron Bird, who will teach math at Davis High School. Bird grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills, in the vicinity of Mariposa and Lake Don Pedro. He did his undergraduate studies at Alfred University in rural upstate New York, and earned a teaching credential at UC Santa Cruz. He’s been teaching in the Washington Unified School District in West Sacramento.
Bird said he’s going concentrate on helping his new math students “build confidence and flex their skills.” Bird lives on a farm near Davis — “over the summer, I acquired three goats, and started making yogurt from the goat milk.”
The new hires through Thursday, including full- and part-time, are: Lauren Alger, transitional kindergarten, Montgomery; Jose Bermudez, Spanish Immersion/Spanish, Emerson; Byron Bird, math, Davis High; Christine Brewin, sixth-grade AIM, Korematsu; Jay Brookman, special ed, Harper; Erica Burnison, math specialist, curriculum and instruction; Alexis Camacho, special ed, Birch Lane; Riley Chessman, special ed, Emerson; Maria Cook, counselor, Korematsu; Kelly Cooper, second grade, Montgomery; Karen Cunningham, counselor, Patwin/North Davis; David Davenport, French, Harper; Megan Dere, fifth grade, Montgomery; Christine Didas, third grade, Willett; Molly Durst, fourth grade, Willett; Kala Ebbe, counselor, Da Vinci Junior High; Sarah Eich, fifth grade, North Davis; Amanda Fiddyment, social science, DSIS; Christopher Fluetsch, librarian, Willett; Kaitlyn Fuller, English, Da Vinci High; Kristina Fuller, chemistry/physics, Da Vinci High; Marisa Gaytan, Spanish Immersion third grade, Chávez; Emma Gist, English, Da Vinci High; John Grima, life science, Da Vinci High; Allison Henley, art, Davis High/Da Vinci High; Rebecca Honig, English, Harper; Allysa Horrell-Se, primary Montessori, Birch Lane; Karl Jacobs, physical education, Emerson; Karen Jacobson, kindergarten, North Davis; Ashley Jimenez, fifth grade, Pioneer; Cameron Jones, kindergarten/first grade, Birch Lane; Alexander Kane, fourth grade, Korematsu; Moira Keene Acosta, science prep, Korematsu; Crista Koch, fifth grade, Montgomery; Kelly Kosiewicz, second-/third-grade combination, Korematsu; Megan Landreth, psychologist, Montgomery/Chávez; Alison Lerch, special ed, Patwin; Kimberly Liu, counselor, Davis High; Stacy Lovitt, second grade, North Davis; Aryana Mahmoudi, special ed, Da Vinci Junior High; Alejandra Mayorga, kindergarten, Chávez; Erin McAdams, first grade, Korematsu; Marissa McBride, first-/second-grade Montessori, Birch Lane; Sarah McCaffrey, second grade, Pioneer; Lesli McCutcheon, librarian, Korematsu/Patwin; Christopher McDermott, industrial tech, Emerson; Elizabeth Merrill, librarian, Emerson /Harper; Ellie Miller, reading teacher, Birch Lane; Mimi Monson, first grade, Willett; Christie Moulton, first grade, Montgomery; Jennifer Mullin, counselor, Da Vinci High; Nina Nero, social science, Holmes; Leah Larum, special ed, North Davis/Willett; Lisa Olmo, third grade, Montgomery; Katherine Parker, counselor, Pioneer; Zachary Pasillas, math, Da Vinci High; Carolina Piña, second grade, Chávez; David Plaut, math specialist, Montgomery; Cammie Portello, fourth grade, North Davis; Amanda Rayls, kindergarten, Willett; Angela Raski, fifth grade, Willett; Adam Rivard, special ed, Holmes; Javier Rojo, fifth grade, Montgomery; Anna “Chrissy” Rudell Hill, special ed, Emerson; Nicholas Salcedo, Spanish, Davis High; Brook Sandy, special ed, Emerson; Corinne Schneider, special ed, district office; Jessica Shaker, fifth grade, Birch Lane; James Shimek, drafting/robotics, Harper; Hilary Spence, third grade, Montgomery; Jessica Spiropoulos, speech language therapist, district office; Nathaniel Sternbergh, English, Da Vinci High; Rebecca Tessier, first grade, North Davis; Kristine Thiem, librarian, North Davis; Debbie Thomas, special ed, Da Vinci High; Darcie Thurman, health/physical education, Harper; Michael Tobey, social science, Harper; Ramona Torres, two-way bilingual immersion teacher, Montgomery; Tara Uliasz, special ed, Da Vinci Junior High; Kelly Valdepena, second grade, North Davis; Amanda Walsh, first grade, Korematsu; Bin Wang, Chinese, Davis High; Natalie Watkins, psychologist, district office; Anny Wu, psychologist, district office; and Amanda Zimmerman, kindergarten, Montgomery.