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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Home grown teachers -- New second grade teacher glad to be back

Monday, October 8, 2012

First-year teacher and McCook High School alumni Jessica Harris Fritz says her last name -- Mrs. Fritz -- can be hard for second graders to pronounce, with the s and z so close together.
(Lorri Sughroue/McCook Daily Gazette)
EDITOR'S NOTE -- This is the first in a series on six new teachers hired by the McCook School District this year that are graduates of McCook High School. All of them are in their first year of teaching and we wondered what it was that brought them back to their old stomping grounds -- and what it is like to be teaching in schools they used to attend as students. For many, the decision to return to McCook was the familiarity and fond memories of their hometown. We decided to visit the new teachers and get the low-down on how they are doing "back home." (Note: one teacher, Kimberly (Brown) Heimann, was unavailable for comment as she is on maternity leave with her new baby.) Part one of this series focuses on a MHS grad who was hired for McCook Elementary and now teaches along side her former second grade teacher.

McCOOK, Nebraska -- They say you can't go home again, but for Jessica (Harris) Fritz of McCook, it hasn't been a problem.

Fritz, a 2007 McCook High School alumni, has returned to McCook as a new second grade teacher at McCook Elementary. It's her first teaching position and being in her hometown has made it that much easier, she said.

"There is so much more support here, from the teachers and the administration, that I can relax and just be myself," the newlywed said.

Fritz graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in December 2011 and did her student teaching as a long-term substitute at a grade school in Lincoln, Nebraska.

She's been on-the-go since August, when she was married in Lincoln on a Saturday and moved to McCook the following Monday to begin her teaching job. Her husband, Craig, still works in Lincoln as a motocross coordinator at Abbott Sports Complex.

The biggest challenge so far for this teacher has been getting routines and procedures in place while implementing her own schedule, Fritz said.

"They tell me it starts getting easier around Christmas time," she laughed.

Making her first year a little smoother is the support she gets from the other teachers, including her own second grade teacher from 17 years ago, Cheryl Cunningham, now her co-worker at McCook Elementary.

"She was one of my favorite teachers. She's still doing some of the projects I loved doing when I was in her class."

At McCook Public Schools, recently-hired teachers are paired with veteran teachers to help show them the ropes and the mentoring has been invaluable, Fritz said.

"I'm very grateful to the other teachers. It's nice to know what they've been through. I feel I can ask them anything."

Things have changed since she was in second grade, Fritz is the first to acknowledge.

With the advent of computers, kids are much more tech savvy, she said.

As an example, Fritz said she took keyboarding in high school and now, kids are on the keyboard by kindergarten, if not sooner, at home.

And chalkboards have gone the way of overhead projectors. It's all smart boards now, she said. Similar to a huge computer screen, teachers display on smart boards what they have on their own computer and students use remote controls to interact on the screen.

This works well with students nowadays, she said, as "Kids have become used to instant interaction."

Although methods of teaching may have changed, other things have not. Since being back in her hometown, "I'm still Jessica Harris to a lot of people," she laughed.

But being physically closer to her parents and family is what's important to her, especially to her sisters, Jennifer, 21, and Jana, who is in sixth grade.

"Now, I get to come back and watch Jana grow up, catch up on what I missed while away at school," she said.

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It is fantastic when people return to their hometown for work. You have to wonder how long the individuals intend to stay. Yes,i know its the first article in a series so more info to come, but while reading this article out loud (at coffee this morn)several others asked the same question so there is some curiosity whether or not this is just a stop in the road for some or a long term commitment to the community and the school system.Just wondering. Not asking for a firestorm of debate,not being critical of Mrs Fritz in any way.Just asking a question.Don't shoot the messenger fellow readers!!!!

-- Posted by mommily on Tue, Oct 9, 2012, at 8:44 AM

I would hope it is a long term deal if they are good teachers. The same question could be ask about any new hire however.

-- Posted by dennis on Tue, Oct 9, 2012, at 11:07 AM

I agree. It would be wonderful if any new hires were looking to make McCook their hometown.

-- Posted by mommily on Wed, Oct 10, 2012, at 8:38 AM

If you don't mind me saying, which you might mommily, its somewhat a derogatory question. Why would such a thing come up around the coffee table unless there is a gathering of pessimists sipping their morning beverage. As with anyone, each individual has their own reason for doing what they do and it generally is accompanied by the ebbs and flows of life. Some seek money and compromise safety and health, others seek a good environment to raise a family and by extension sacrifice a higher income.

If I was one of these returning teachers reading this article, I would be offended by the comment as well as wonder what type of community I was moving back to.

If we want a younger work force in our area, then don't look a gift horse in the mouth, and welcome them as opposed to doubting them.

Not what I would call a good welcoming committee here. And the pessimists wonder why the youth pulls root...... Hmmm let me think.

Welcome home to these fine teachers and anyone new to our area!

-- Posted by Nick Mercy on Thu, Oct 11, 2012, at 1:46 PM

I have also noticed that there are a lot of negative people that comment on here. Isn't this a good and heart warming story?

That's disapointing to see an infrequent good news story turned bad.

My thoughts,

Sandra M

-- Posted by Sandra M on Fri, Oct 12, 2012, at 3:17 PM

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