Teachers already back to work on the Suncoast

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SUNCOAST -- Tuesday was the first day back on the job for Manatee County school teachers, and teachers and staff members at Johnson Middle School were getting a little extra motivation.

Tuesday morning, tennis coach Nick Bollettieri gave a motivational speech to the group at the IMG Country Club during a welcome back breakfast.

Johnson Middle School is celebrating last year's "A" grade, and the principal hopes to have another successful year. “I think a new year brings new energy, and so I am looking forward to working with new teachers and new students. And my grandson will be at one of the schools, so I am excited about that.”

And when students head back to Sarasota County and Manatee County public schools next week, they'll be greeted by teachers who are already in the classroom preparing for the new school year.

Many of them are dealing with a learning curve of their own with new tests and standards.

The faculty parking lot at Venice Elementary was full Tuesday as teachers geared up. Teacher Susan Banks was coloring up the walls and getting all the supplies together.

But that's not all. "Getting our rooms ready, but we are also thinking about curriculum. We have some changes with how we are giving instruction."

No more FCAT; instead, new tests similar to what's known nationally as "Common Core". Here it's now called Florida Standards.

"It's a lot of retraining for teachers. There were some years there where you could open a manual and read from a script more or less. It has moved way beyond that."

Some will even be evaluated and paid based on how the students do.

"It's an unbelievable amount of change for my teachers." Principal Theresa Beaus says there are changes to other tests, too. Students are being taught more information earlier. “We have additional things to teach in math, in reading, in science, even in handwriting. It is going to be a very intense year for my staff."

"I think it is more rigorous and is needed." Banks says she's actually happy with the changes. She also says it doesn't mean they're robots either. "This is the standard, but you have to find a great way to get it across to the kids. It takes a lot of energy and time but it is really worth it."

Both say there is still enough room to not only teach to the standard, but to help develop good people, too. "If you love children and you love to teach, you will find a way to incorporate those things into what you do."

The first day of school for students in Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte counties will be on Monday, August 18th.