A sense of déjà vu hits Chelsea Willman when she passes the choir room at Horizon Community Middle School.
Willman will begin her teaching career at Horizon next week in the language arts department, but it won't be her first experience in the building. From 2005 to 2008, Willman was a student at the school, a proud Husky who found inspiration, direction and a sense of purpose thanks to the teaching staff and resources at Horizon. She spent countless hours rehearsing and performing the Horizon choir room; the teachers and counselors at the school gave her the tools she needed to succeed at Smoky Hill High School and in college.
Willman sees her nascent teaching career in the Cherry Creek School District as a way to give back.
"The reason I chose Horizon was that I wanted to give back to the community that gave me so much," Willman said as she joined 326 fellow first-year teachers at Eaglecrest High School on Aug. 2 for the district's annual New Teacher Orientation event.
Willman was one of 40 Cherry Creek School District alums and hundreds of other new instructors who reported to the orientation event that served as a precursor to first-year teaching posts across the district. The group of 327 new teachers included 91 new arrivals to Colorado, dozens of seasoned teachers heading to Cherry Creek Schools from other districts and 74 freshly minted professionals just starting their careers.
No matter their background, each new arrival shared a similar love for the profession and credentials that helped them stand out.
"Welcome to the Cherry Creek School District. We picked you because you are the best," Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Harry Bull told the crowd that gathered in the Eaglecrest auditorium. "I don't think that there's any more important profession than this. I'm proud to be an educator, and at Cherry Creek, we're about excellence."
Bull wasn't the only one to welcome the group to the district during the orientation. Attendees arrived to a raucous welcome from Eaglecrest cheerleaders, band members and student government representatives, all of whom formed a friendly gauntlet outside of the school doors. The morning's program included presentations from the district's leadership team, board of education and executive directors. From an in-depth view of the Cherry Creek School District's Performance Plan to input from Sheryl Cunningham, president of the Cherry Creek Education Association, the orientation touched on all aspects of the district operation.
It was all part of a mindful welcome, one that emphasized the importance of group's role in the daily operation of a school district comprising more than 54,000 students.
"You are the most important commodity we have in this district," said Todd Fukai, assistant superintendent of human resources for the district. "I'm asking you to strive to be the best teacher you can."