BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The new faces of Biloxi education got a crash course Friday in basic teaching 101.
One of the tools used to emphasize innovative teaching techniques were baking potatoes. "All right my four people, you all stand up," an instructor shouted to the four volunteers who caught the potatoes she tossed around the classroom.
Their task was to pierce the uncooked potatoes with plastic straws.
"If we keep the momentum going and we believe we can do it, let's see what happens," the instructor said.
Surrounding the four volunteers were other new members of the Biloxi School System's faculty. "We're going to rally around each other. We're going to work together," the instructor said.
The exercise was a reminder that in teaching, anything was possible.
"We believe. We believe. We believe," the teachers chanted three times. After the third refrain, the volunteers stabbed their potatoes. Two straws stuck in the spuds. Two other glanced off the skin.
Jason Thomas had one of the potatoes that couldn't be penetrated by plastic. "I think they gave me a little bit thicker potato than some of the other teachers," Thomas laughed. Thomas will teach ninth grade history at Biloxi High School. He'll also coach wide receivers for the football team. Thomas used orientation day as his organization day. "Just trying to get everything organized. Get prepared for the students to come back to class," he said. "Everyone around here has been real supportive. Nice school system. And they have all the resources. So, I'm looking forward to working with some of the teachers and coaches."
The 2009-10 orientation was for Biloxi's 31 new teachers. That number is a bit lower than in previous years. The reason for that is because Biloxi closed one of its elementary schools. Consequently, all but two of the new teachers will be assigned classrooms at the junior high, or at Biloxi High School.
Matt Buckley was a student teacher last year. He's one of seven first time teachers in Biloxi this year. "It's kind of overwhelming trying to plan and figure out what I'm going to do for the whole year," he said.
Sitting two rows behind him was Dedra Wedgeworth. The 17 year teaching veteran moved to Biloxi this summer to take advantage of everything the school system offers. "I'm very nervous about coming over to Biloxi. But I'm excited," said Wedgeworth. "I've been trying to get over here for a few years. And finally a teaching and coaching position came open, and doors were opened, so I ran through them."
Biloxi's new teachers make their classroom debuts next Wednesday.