Recent college grads return to classroom as teachers

Garret Risley graduated from Illinois State University this spring.

Todd Metzger earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois last month.

As they prepare to move on with life, they will remain in the classroom.

Both Mahomet-Seymour graduates were education majors who in August will start their teaching careers.

Risley, a 2012 M-S graduate, was hired by his alma mater as a special education instructor at the high school.

Metzger, a 2013 M-S graduate, will have his first job be as a fourth-grade teacher at Fisher Elementary School.

In a matter of weeks, they will be on their own with a group of students.

“I’m super-excited and ready to meet my students,” Risley said. “I’m ready to get going. I’ve been in my classroom a few times.”

 

The job search

College professors and advisors emphasize to upcoming graduates to be patient as they seek teaching positions.

“They tell us openings will happen,” Metzger said. “Some will come in the summer. Some don’t get jobs until August.”

Metzger was one of the fortunate ones.

He looked into 10 jobs, went through three interviews and — on April 17 — received an offer to join the staff at Fisher.

Metzger had done his research and had already investigated the school.

“I had looked into the school and, as soon as they offered, I was ready to take it,” he said.

Metzger expects to fit in at a school with which he is not yet familiar.

School personnel will be an asset. The principal is Jim Moxley, the father of his childhood friend, Tyler Moxley.

 

Starting early

Risley developed an idea about his intended profession when he was in junior high school.

M-S had a program where students would volunteer to go into special education classes and “kind of be a friend,” Risley said. “I helped during study hall in sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade.”

He was hooked.

“The way I was received each day, it was contagious to see students happy to see you,” Risley said. “I went in as a peer and they made me want to come back.”

He was involved throughout high school in a similar program.

“At that point, I knew what the end goal was,” Risley said.

He not only recognized what he wanted to do, but also his preferred location.

“Mahomet is where I wanted to be,” Risley said. “A lot of those teachers were my role models. It was my dream job.”

He put extra pressure on himself when he interviewed at M-S because “it was such a big deal for me.”

Risley was optimistic when he left the interview.

“I fumbled over a couple of words,” he said, “but ISU had prepared me well and I was confident in what I said.”

 

Added duties

Both Metzger and Risley will serve as coaches as they begin their teaching careers.

Metzger was hired as the seventh-grade boys’ basketball head coach. He will also help with the high school baseball program, though his exact role hasn’t been determined.

Risley will assist in football, “wherever they need me,” and will return as a volunteer boys’ basketball coach.

A year ago, he helped coach Eric Andracke with the freshmen team.

“I like coaching the basics and getting them used to the program,” Risley said.

 

Similar interests

Metzger will teach one of Fisher’s two fourth-grade sections, but he won’t have to look far to find someone who can relate to what he will be going through.

“My fiancee (Nicholle Brown) will be a fourth-grade teacher in Champaign (at Robeson School),” Metzger said.

He expects to make a smooth transition from student to teacher.

“I definitely made the right decision,” Metzger said. “I love the younger kids, watching them grow and become better students and individuals. I love seeing the success that kids can have when they’re pushed.

He wants to help school be for others what it was for him as he went through the M-S system from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“I had amazing teachers all the way through,” Metzger said. “That’s a big reason I am here.

“It pains me when people say they didn’t have a good schooling experience. They (the children) have to be there. Hopefully you can make it as enjoyable as possible.”

 

Second-generation teacher

Some of Risley’s classes could have as few as five or six students. Other classes, where he will serve as a co-teacher, could have as many as 20.

“I like the smaller classrooms,” he said. “You’re able to build 1-to-1 relationships.”

The son of longtime M-S instructor Jim Risley, Garret Risley doesn’t see any disadvantages to following in his father’s footsteps.

“The pressure comes from myself,” Garret Risley said. “There are expectations, but I like those expectations.”

He’s in this for the long term.

“I want to be there as long as I can,” he said. “My teaching is geared to helping students meet their goals. Every year will be different.”

 

Supporting the team

Metzger considered different careers before settling on education.

“I waffled a long time,” he said. “I thought about going to law school, then I thought about a career in sports management. I wanted to go into coaching because of the impact you have on your players.”

Finally, he realized he could be a major influence through education.

“It hit me I could do the same things every single day being a teacher,” Metzger said. “I love helping kids reach their full potential.”

One area he will emphasize with his fourth-graders is teamwork.

“They can use each other and keep each other motivated,” Metzger said. “In group work, it’s not super daunting to have to do it all on your own.”

For Risley and Metzger, the education process will continue.

 

Categories (3):News, Education, People

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