Each year new educators are celebrated in an event held by the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce.
Plant City once again welcomed its incoming teachers in a special event early Tuesday morning at the Florida Strawberry Festival grounds.
The Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce throws the festive New Teacher Coffee event every year to ensure its local educators are off to a solid start when they step into their classrooms next week and begin pouring into the minds of their students.
“Plant City is all about community, so we’re here to welcome the new teachers to our community through the support of the Chamber and the businesses that come together for this event,” Irene Castillo, event co-chair, said. “We’re here to support the teachers that are literally building our future.”
The teachers are joined by their principals and have the opportunity to show off their new school spirit and mingle with their fellow educators. They are served a fresh breakfast and are given goodie bags packed full of school supplies and classroom items thanks to donations from a variety of local businesses and organizations.
“This has been an absolute honor each year to come before you and speak and to welcome you back to another school year, but also specifically to the people in this room, those of you who are new to the Plant City area, it’s about time you found out about this place. It’s about time,” Superintendent Jeff Eakins said. “I spent five of the most amazing years of my career right here at Springhead Elementary.”
Eakins went on to discuss how special Plant City is because of its dedication to teachers and the community’s focus on instilling strong morals into the youth. He said they should enter their classrooms with confidence that they’re going to be able to make a difference in their students’ lives.
“Along with that confidence, there’s some anxiety that comes on those first few days,” Eakins said. “With what just happened over the past weekend, that just kind of heaps another level of anxiety on everyone supporting the students. I wanted to remind you that the most important thing we do every day — yes, I know we do drills and we do all of those kinds of things and we have new technology we’re implementing in our schools to help our students and our employees feel safer — the most important thing is your relationship with your students every single day. Once they know that you are looking out for the best for them and you care about them, that anxiety level, no matter what’s happening in the broader world around us, that anxiety level comes down and now you are truly in your sweet spots every single day in your classrooms, supporting students.”
Following breakfast, the schools come one at a time to the stage where the principal introduces the new additions to their staff and then reads a trivia question to the audience. The questions all revolved around either Plant City or education, and the winner of the trivia received a special prize.
Questions like, “Who is the Plant City mayor?” and “What is the name of the Plant City Public Library?” were all floated and principals looked on with smiles as their new hires wracked their brains to remember the facts. Several of the new teachers were former Plant City students themselves and many sat at the same table as their principal, who at one point in time had been their own educator.
Other questions got a little trickier, as they asked what the average number of books a child reads over the summer was and inquired as to what percentage of U.S. public schools have access to the internet.
Conversation would erupt across the tables as they furiously scribbled down their answers and some light-hearted banter revved up the competitive spirit. As each new teacher exited the stage, they were greeted by Glenn Mathias, owner of Creative Flower Designs By Glenn, who handed each one a fresh long-stemmed rose.
One lucky teacher from each table also walked way with the centerpiece, which varied from fresh bouquets to crates filled with classroom supplies.
This year, a new surprise filled the room with excited shouts as Michelle Welch, owner of Wishing Well Barn, stepped to the stage. She announced she was offering a unique prize in honor of the event. One lucky school would be granted an end-of-the-year banquet courtesy of Wishing Well. Everything from the catering to the decor would be handled by the venue. Walden Lake Elementary’s name was pulled from a basket and the new teachers and their principal squealed in excitement.