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Norwich Free Academy Teachers Share Their Hopes for the Year Ahead

More than 500 ninth graders from nine different Connecticut towns arrived for their very first day of school at Norwich Free Academy (NFA) yesterday. And their teachers were ready for them.

Here’s what some NFA ninth grade teachers are planning on and looking forward to this school year.

Social studies teacher Michael Byrne.

Michael Byrne had his very first official day of teaching yesterday as a first-year social studies teacher at NFA. That first day mostly featured tours of campus. Because the incoming class is so large and the campus-style layout of the school can be intimidating for new students, the first day of school serves as an orientation for ninth graders.

Byrne graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University last spring and student taught at NFA last year. “I”m looking forward to getting to know my kids and building those relationships,” he says. “Our school welcomes students from every walk of life, and I hope to make a difference in their four years at NFA”

Math teacher Kimberly Lirette.

Math teacher Kimberly Lirette says that ninth graders can be a little nervous coming in, but that NFA does a good job alleviating their stress and helping them meet fellow students. The unit system the school uses keeps ninth graders together in a group for their English, social studies, and science classes. “It helps them get to know other students a lot faster,” says Lirette.

Lirette is looking forward to getting to know her new group of students and has planned some ice breaker activities that incorporate movement to help students feel comfortable in her classroom and with one another.

English teacher Pat Kirker.

“What I love most about teaching each year is that you never know where it’s going to take you,” says English teacher Pat Kirker.

The ninth grade curriculum will have Kirker teaching Fahrenheit 451, the Odyssey, and Romeo and Juliet. “The great thing about NFA is that we’re able to add supplemental materials. The curriculum is the same for all students, but how I approach it is tailored to the students in front of me.”

Math teacher Emily Latham.

“Teaching here is my dream job,” says math teacher Emily Latham, an NFA graduate. “After college I was hired here as a long-term sub. A position opened up when another teacher left, and I was hired for a permanent position. I wasn’t expecting my dream to come true.”

Latham says that this year she will be co-teaching a class for the first time with special education teacher Megan Wakely. “I’m excited to work with my co-teacher.”

Social studies teacher Peter Rodrigues.

Social studies teacher Peter Rodrigues says that every year “I always look forward to getting to know the kids’ personalities and building relationships.”

To help build those relationships, he decorates the room with intriguing items likely to start conversations with students. The Blackbeard flag he acquired in North Carolina will spark questions and the sports posters are easily identifiable to many students, leading to talk about shared interests.

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