(Lorri Sughroue/McCook Daily Gazette)
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.