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The Early Bird Gets the Job

In late August, Kristina Ross put the finishing touches on her classroom at White Oak Elementary School in Apex. Less than two days later, she joined her colleagues in welcoming many nervous yet excited kindergarten students and their families to the new school.

And Ross knows just how they feel.

Her journey to this point began back in April when she attended the district’s job fair at Rolesville High School. With more than 1,500 candidates expected to attend, Ross wondered how she, an out-of-state teacher with just a few years of experience, would stand out in the crowd.

It turns out that when you are the first and only person in line at 5 a.m. in a cold, misting rain, standing out is not really a problem.

“I had one goal and it was to get a job with Wake County Schools,” Ross said. “Everyone I met and talked to from the district during my initial job search was so helpful, so professional. I just knew this was the place I wanted to be so I did everything I could to make it happen.”

Her perseverance paid off as it earned her an interview and then a job offer from White Oak Principal Robin Swaim.

“What has impressed me the most about Kristina is her enthusiasm and commitment to teaching and learning," said Swaim. "She already brings many great skills to her classroom but also is eager to learn more and grow as an educator. She is a great fit for our new White Oak team and we are happy to have her."

New Kid on the Block

With two years of elementary school teaching under her belt, Ross is not new to the profession. But she is new to North Carolina. She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and teaching from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2014 and spent a couple years teaching second grade at Mt. Carmel Elementary School in Cedar Grove, Indiana.

She and her husband decided to move to North Carolina when he was accepted into a doctorate program for genetics at a local university.

While all the jungle-themed classroom decor she brought with her from Ohio will be familiar, there will be many new things for her to learn and adjust to as well.

“Staggered entry for kindergarten is not something we did in my old school. It makes sense though. I am excited to have some time dedicated to getting to know students on an individual basis at the beginning of the year,” she said.

Strong Support System

As a third-year teacher, Ross will have many opportunities to learn from her other colleagues at White Oak and across the district. The district recently hosted a day-long Improving Teacher Quality Institute on Aug. 17. This was a professional learning and networking opportunity for all educators in year two or three of their careers.

Ross also receives constant guidance from her school-assigned mentor. Both the Institute and mentoring effort are components of the district’s Teacher Support Program which is designed to help teachers during the first three years they spend in the classroom.

Last to Leave

Even with lots of support, relocating from another state and setting up a classroom in a new school would create stress for anyone. Yet with furniture to be assembled and moving boxes stacked toward the ceiling four days before students were to arrive, Ross worked through the challenges with purpose and a smile.

“I think Kristina was the last to leave the school this past Saturday night. It was 9 p.m. and I had to tell her to go home,” Swaim said.

And that is just the type of dedication Ross said she hopes to bring to her classroom every day.

“Teaching is a calling for me,” she said. “It is a privilege to work with young kids. I love having the opportunity to make a meaningful impact on their lives.”