Summer ends early for teachers
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 5, 2005

Betty Reid

Sonja Jones reached into a crate of books and arranged them by reading level for her third-grade students in the Roosevelt School District.

Cecilia Stapleton decorated her classroom bulletin boards with brightly colored ABCs and 1-2-3s for first-graders in the Cartwright School District.

Stapleton and Jones are two of hundreds of teachers who returned to work Monday. It's myth to believe that teachers just show up the day doors open to students.

While students completed summer camps, shopped for school supplies, watched television, carried on long-winded cellphone conversations with friends or slept, most teachers were busy preparing for their students' return to classrooms.

Jones, a seven-year veteran, sorted through phonics and math books in classroom 217 at Cloves A. Campbell Elementary.

When school ended in early June, the instructor packed and stored 12 boxes of education equipment. Campus maintenance workers polished the hallways, scrubbed classrooms and painted walls over summer break.

"It's like Christmas when you return, you open up everything and get things back together," Jones said last week.

Educators like Jones, 34, return recharged. There are important tasks such as creating lesson plans for the first week of school and attaching name tags to desks for Meet the Teacher Night.

Jones' students already know her as "Mrs. Jones." The youngsters met their teacher when they were kindergartners.

It is a teaching method called "looping," which allows teachers to follow the same group of students as they are promoted. The idea is to maintain continuity for teachers and students.

"I'm looking at this year as a time for them (students) to master third-grade level," Jones said. "I'm looking forward to seeing good, big things to happen on their AIMS test."

Given the amount of work in preparing for the school year, it's hard for instructors like Jones and Stapleton to get any free time.

Stapleton, who moved to the Valley from El Paso in July, launched her teaching career in Classroom 10 at Cartwright's Davidson School. Stapleton, who earned an early childhood education degree at the University of Texas at El Paso in May, is excited about teaching and meeting 23 first-graders.

Stapleton, 40, is an office manager turned educator, She is enthusiastic and eager to make a difference. And Cartwright is the perfect spot for her because the majority of the 20,000 students are Latino, and many enroll speaking only Spanish. The bilingual Stapleton's mission is to help immerse first-graders into English.

"They'll look like me and I'm Hispanic, I know their language and I can relate to their parents," Stapleton said.

The new instructor, who has not accumulated as much in supplies as Jones, expects she'll cart around education stuff like her veteran colleagues soon. Teacher friends helped her get started.

They donated gently used scissors, glue, pencils, crayons, word games and books.

"I'm just so happy that I can help. I want to make a difference," she said.

Reach the reporter at or call (602) 444-8049.