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Kern County teachers share greatest hopes for new school year

As tens of thousands of students return to school campuses this week in Kern County — many of them for the very first time since March 2020 — The Californian asked teachers their greatest hopes for the new academic year.

We asked teachers from all grade levels, different subjects, veteran teachers and a few teachers who are just beginning their careers.

"My hope for this year is that each worker bee who enters our Hive will feel loved, valued, seen and heard. That as a classroom community we will learn to work hard, ‘bee’ kind, and always be AMAZING! I want each worker to know that we are a family and that we will be one another’s biggest cheerleaders! I truly look forward to learning and growing alongside my sweet kinder bees!"

— Stephanie N. Holladay (the beekeeper), kindergarten teacher at Dr. Juliet Thorner Elementary

"My greatest hope for this school year is for my students to feel they are a part of a supportive and loving community where they can accomplish anything. I want my students to once again dive into the magic of discovery, the joy of learning, and the power of connection. Mostly, I just want them in-person with me, so I can experience their fun and laughter every single day!"

— Jen Ihde, 5th grade teacher at Columbia Elementary School

"As a first grade teacher, my hope for my students is simple: that they LOVE school. Not the logging in and sitting at a computer all day school, which is, at this point, all they know. The hands-on, laughing, dancing, singing silly songs, interactive, collaborative, engaging learning that happens within the four walls of a classroom every day!"

— Jolie Brouttier, 1st grade teacher at Downtown Elementary School

"My hope is to connect with students and families by heart and soul. I hope that even through a mask they can feel my compassion and in return deliver integrity, responsibility and grace into this wild world our students are inevitably growing up in. More than ANYTHING: I hope every day together contributes to a higher education and higher student self-esteem!"

— Amy Vaughn, 3rd Grade teacher at Highland Elementary School

"I looked forward to making a positive impact on kids coming back and giving them hope during these uncertain times. Giving back to my community is important to me. Getting to know each individual will help me understand what they feel is important to them. I hope we continue to expand children’s thinking skills as well as for me to grow and learn from this new journey that I will be taking on. I can’t wait to give everyone around me more hope as well."

— Curtis Threlkeld, first year 8th grade science teacher at Standard Middle School

"My hope for the year is that students will gain a sense of safety, comfort, and support in my classroom. I hope that environment allows them to use music to move forward from the past couple of years and grow as human beings. Here's to a great year for all our amazing Kern County educators!"

— Ryan Clippinger, choir teacher at Ridgeview High School

"My greatest hope for this new school year is that we will be able to get back to some sense of normalcy on campus. I ask our community to behave in such a way as will protect our public health and make it possible for our schools to operate in the least restrictive way. I hope that eligible family members will get vaccinated and that they will do whatever they can to protect the health of our young people."

— Pamela Tarango, 3rd grade teacher at Downtown Elementary School

"My hope is not only to bridge the learning gap, but make our students feel safe and welcomed in our classrooms. Distance learning was difficult for almost every parent, student and teacher. I hope our experiences can make us appreciate each other and understand the importance of the students' education. My hope is to see my students grow into successful adults with the confidence and perseverance to overcome any obstacle they may face in life."

— Lisa Ramos, 1st grade teacher at Panama Elementary School

"As a first-year teacher, I am going into this school year expecting limitless possibilities. I think the students are ready to come back and make lifelong memories, which we now know we cannot take for granted. Overall, my biggest hope is that we can all come together to get back a sense of normalcy. Learning content will come, but right now I hope to see compassion, empathy and community, which we greatly need."

— Jade Jimenez, 5th grade teacher at Wayside Elementary School

"Coming back from a challenging year of distance learning, my hope is to build personal relationships with all my students. I wish to establish a culture where students feel safe and valued as a member of our classroom family. As we work toward this goal, I believe we can create a learning environment that will engage students and encourage them to strive to be the best they can be!"

—Tori Townson, 6th grade teacher at American Elementary School

"My greatest hope for this school year is to give grace: to my students, to my bosses, to my colleagues and to myself. Above all else, I hope to show love to those around me and to just create a sense of belonging with my students. I want them to know they are loved and valued no matter what. I want to begin where they are — no shame involved — and grow from there together."

— Emily Black, 2nd grade teacher at Highland Elementary School

"My greatest hope for all students is that they learn they are resilient! As the school community endeavors to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive environment for all students, I hope that our students are able to develop a can-do mindset that allows them to 'Do Hard Things' after the past difficult year. Hopefully students will develop and be supported in learning social and emotional skills that will support them in their future."

— Roxanne Honaker, 8th grade science teacher at Rosedale Middle School

"This last year-and-a-half I have seen firsthand the difference between distance learning and in-person instruction. My greatest hope for this school year is to build relationships with students again. Students get so much more than academics while at school. Being able to provide the social and emotional support to the students through physical education and movement, nutrition, mental help support, structure and parameters; provide a safe haven; show the students how special they are; and be part of a community of success are key for development. I am so excited to be part of this again."

— Cynthia Postiff, 7th grade physical education teacher at Actis Junior High

"My greatest hope this school year is to bring normalcy back to education. I know I will need to focus on mitigating the learning loss that has occurred over the past 18 months, but also I’m looking forward to establishing meaningful relationships with my students. I’m looking forward to watching my students collaborate with classmates, work hands-on with manipulatives and create bonds with peers. Distance was extremely difficult for most teachers, students and parents. This is a year for new beginnings!"

— Tiffany Funkhouser, 3rd grade teacher at Panama Elementary School

"My greatest hope for this year is that my students would know they are each valued beyond measure and that I might empower them as they work toward achieving their goals!"

Spencer Kaff, 6th Grade teacher at Standard Middle School

"My greatest hope is that I am an effective teacher to my students who haven't been in a classroom since they were in 5th grade. I want them to feel safe, like they're learning, and feel wanted."

— Devon Halsell, first year 7th Grade English language arts teacher Standard Middle School