Lindsay Bitterman is gearing up for another year. Although she’s been told of the many challenges ahead, the Lake Havasu Unified School District employee gives us nine tips for making this year a success story.


Over the past decade, I’ve learned that when you work in a rural district with a base salary significantly lower than comparable towns, you should expect turnover. We are accustomed to teachers coming and going, but we have never had a year quite like this. Only three teachers are returning out of a department of nine.

Being the remaining veteran teacher, I was bestowed the duty of heading up the math department. I was advised to plan for long-term substitutes and interns, and to assume our new hires would come without a background in education or a depth of content knowledge. This scenario caused a new type of anxiety and panic, but I have always embraced a challenge and am genuinely fulfilled by supporting new teachers.

“You can’t care for others if you don’t take care of yourself.” These words have been burned into my memory from the hours I spent volunteering at the battered women’s shelter as a high schooler. I knew the first step in helping the new hires would be taking care of myself. I set out to organize everything and develop procedures for my students to take care of the class as much as possible.

Here are nine ways I’ve upped my game, in hope of preparing myself and the new hires for a prosperous year:

  1. Make absent work less cumbersome. Task one student with the role of being class secretary. This individual will complete “While You Were Out” tickets for each absent classmate and collect any handouts they’ve missed.
  2. Create labels for everything. It’s helpful to have digital and hardcopy resources labeled by week, unit, and standard.
  3. Return papers. Make one student in charge of delivering papers. Tip: I put the grades on the back of the paper so the delivery person is just looking at the name on the front, rather than associating a grade with a student.
  4. Use bulletin boards to your advantage. I glued thumbtacks to clothespins, and on other bulletin boards I ran string across the board to hang the clothespins. Displaying student work and changing themes is effortless now.
  5. Create a resource binder. I want teachers to walk in and find an easy, dependable resource. I provided a sample lesson plan, substitute plan, school and department procedures and routines, a resources page, and of course the state standards and curriculum map.
  6. Allocate supplies. Check classrooms for textbooks and basic supplies needed to start the year. This is one easy to-do you can remove from a new teacher’s checklist.
  7. Make a few extra copies. So much of what I copy before the school year starts is pertinent to any classroom. Help a colleague out by making extra sign-in and -out sheets, hall passes, bell schedules, etc.
  8. Make a list of solid routines and procedures. I put together a list for teachers to think about as they organize their rooms. This sheet included things that are often overlooked when starting out like collecting and returning papers, welcoming and dismissing students, distributing supplies, getting out of seats, etc.
  9. Prepare to give the gift of time. Having my own classroom in order will allow me to invest my time in the teachers to meet their individual needs.

These timeless strategies can help anyone prioritize and refocus on the ultimate goal — serving the students of today and leaders of tomorrow.


Make the most of your school year and your students’ learning. Register today for Assessment Literacy: Strengthening Teacher-Made Assessments to Improve Student Learning on Sept. 26-27.

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