In a grand welcome that mixed motivation and inspiration, Killeen school district leaders on Tuesday applauded its newest teachers for choosing a career that changes lives.
Superintendent John Craft, Board President Corbett Lawler, two Killeen ISD teachers of the year and other district leaders praised 440 new teachers for joining a school district that will continue to embrace them with support as they invest their talent and care in a new generation.
In the 90-minute presentation at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, Craft introduced new educators to their community from sepia-toned photos of Killeen’s beginning as a railroad switch that grew into a commercial center for cotton transport.
The small town started a one-room schoolhouse in 1884 that over time grew with the swelling population. Many students in those days attended 200 school houses scattered across the county near water sources with names like Willow Springs, Reeces Creek and Cedar Valley.
Killeen transformed when the government built Camp Hood during World War II to train soldiers on heavy armored vehicles. Through the establishment of the permanent Fort Hood, through integration in 1957 to today’s burgeoning business and transportation infrastructure the area continues expansion.
The superintendent praised Peggy French, a longtime volunteer in KISD who was a teacher at East Ward Elementary School from 1957 to 1978. Visionary community leaders and committed teachers like French built a legacy that continues, he said.
Today, KISD is diverse and mobile, both strengths, Craft said. About 7,000 employees will lean into the work of mobilizing systems to serve 45,000 students returning to school Aug. 27. Support staff maintain 6.7 million square feet of facilities and transport 12,000 students 18,000 miles a day across Killeen, Harker Heights, Nolanville and Fort Hood.
The history and demographics led Craft seamlessly to today, with KISD and its partners working on a myriad of construction projects, including a new comprehensive high school with a STEM academy, renovation on its oldest high school, enhanced safety and security and other projects tied to the $426 million bond election voters approved in May.
Much of the teacher induction event served as celebration of a profession as complex and demanding as it is rewarding and impactful.
Director for Employee Relations Tina Cole danced her way to the stage and urged new teachers to get excited. “You decided to change the world,” she said.
After sharing her own story of childhood loss and strong mentors who guided her, Cole challenged new teachers to learn their students’ stories. They include love and joy, pain and hurt, she pointed out. “You have to know where they are coming from to meet them there.”
“Success goes beyond brick and mortar to quality instruction,” Craft said. “It all comes back to you.” He acknowledged the job is difficult and multifaceted from cleaning up messes to serving as coach, mentor and advocate, all the while delivering quality lessons.
“Today’s teachers are more than professionals,” he said. “You are unsung heroes. What a responsibility and what a tremendous reward.”
“I’m nervous, but I want to make a difference in the world,” said Katherine Carriveau, a new third-grade bilingual teacher at Harker Heights Elementary School. “I’m excited. I feel a sense of community now and I know I’m not alone.”
Anne-Elise Fontaine is a 2013 graduate of Harker Heights High School set to begin her career teaching sixth-grade math at Rancier Middle School. “It’s exciting,” she said. “I’ve been looking forward to this, especially to meeting my students.”
She said she was nervous about teaching for the first time on her own. “I have a good feeling about this year,” Fontaine said. “It will be a lot of learning experiences.”