Welcoming new faces

SHS welcomes 13 new teachers to its staff

This year, SHS has hired 13 new teachers in total and there are likely more to come soon. Due to a combination of low wages, stress and the COVID-19 pandemic, a nationwide teacher shortage occurred that is still affecting SHS today.

Whether it be late summer resignations or even teachers resigning in the middle of the school year, the hiring process of SHS faculty has been abnormal in the last few years. It used to be typical to have multiple teachers applying for one position, but recently even finding one teacher fit for the position is a rarity. However, this hasn’t stopped principal Brian Knight from finding suitable educators to hire.

“This past hiring season, even though we didn’t have a whole lot of options, I think we got unbelievably lucky with a whole lot of people we hired,” Knight said.

Due to the teacher shortage, SHS has been much more open to hiring more experienced teachers. More experienced teachers are higher on the salary scale, so it used to be more common for SHS to hire fairly new teachers for cost effectiveness.

This year only three out of the 13 newly hired teachers are new to education, Human Services teacher Emily Chambers being one of them.

Before graduating from SHS in 2018, Chambers was an active participant in the school soccer team, which led her to seize the role of soccer coach this year. Back in September, the job of Human Services teacher opened up after a teacher’s resignation nearly two months into the school year. 

Even though she doesn’t have a teaching license, Chambers earned a workplace specialist license after working over 4,000 hours in human services, qualifying her to teach the subject. She decided to apply for the position, and has now been teaching for two months while also coaching soccer.

“When I knew they needed a coach I really wanted to fill that position because soccer meant a lot to me growing up, especially the team here,” Chambers said. “And then the teaching position kind of just opened up and I was told ‘Hey, you should apply for it.’ So that’s what happened.”

Previously Chambers also worked as an instructional aid, helping teachers teach students with learning disabilities, but has never had any experience teaching in a classroom of her own. In fact, Chambers went to school for psychology and sociology, not education, so she hopes to grow her skills as an educator while working at her alma mater.

“I’m still learning every day like the students,” Chambers said. “I just hope I can create a positive influence, especially on the sports side of things and in the classroom.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, science teacher Joan Tejchma has been an educator for 26 years with no prior experience at SHS. She previously worked in the communities of Decatur, Mill Creek and South Putnam, teaching 7th grade science, 8th grade science, physics, chemistry, technical chemistry, PE and Beginner Spanish. She now teaches Integrated Chemistry and Physics and regular chemistry.

Tejchma’s high school chemistry teacher helped her build her passion for chemistry, mainly through performing labs that weren’t as common back in the ‘80s. She went on to study at Purdue and major in chemistry.

“He said I had a knack for it, so I just did it,” Tejchma said. “I love it, I’m good at it. I’m not real smart, but I’m really good at chemistry.”

She then went on to teach a number of different subjects in a number of different communities, but after she became tired of the environment of a middle school science classroom, she decided she needed a change and applied to teach at SHS.

Tejchma, whose students call her Tej, says that she’s already gained a lot in her first few months of working here, mainly a positive work environment, great relationships with other teachers and outstanding administrative support.

“It’s great,” Tejchma said. “It’s like a second family.” 

Tejchma is far from being the only new teacher with experience in education. Geography teacher Kenton Armbruster has been teaching for eight years, and in those eight years has taught 13 different subjects, including but not limited to 8th grade science, Digital Citizenship, Psychology, English and History. 

Unlike Tejchma, Armbruster is no stranger to the Southport community. He graduated from SHS in 2010 and even returned to teach during the spring semester of 2015. He returned again this year to have a chance to get back into the community that he’s from and connect with some of the teachers that shaped his school years, including Gene Lezon, Nathan Fishel, Sam Hanley and Michael Klopfenstein.

“There’s still a lot of teachers from when I was here, and I consider them family friends now,” Armbruster said.

Armbruster’s goal as a teacher is to be a positive adult figure for his students and create connections with them that will help them to learn effectively in his class.

“Students get a lot from having some positive interaction with an adult outside of their parents,” Armbruster said. “So I try to do that a little bit, try to connect with them a little bit at their level so that they can cooperate and gain something from my classes.”

It’s a positive work environment, I have excellent administrative support… This is a great place.

— Science teacher Joan Tejchma

Although many new teachers have already arrived at SHS this year, there are likely more to come. Tara Foor has resigned from her position as media specialist and Jordan Dever will be switching from the English department to the Business department in this year’s second semester, automatically opening two more positions at SHS for new educators to join the community.

“It’s a positive work environment, I have excellent administrative support… This is a great place,” Tejchma said.