This is a big year for the Oregon Trail School District as a whole, especially in terms of staffing. Many teachers have moved on to other districts and positions, and nine retired in June, leaving big shoes to fill.
At Sandy Grade School, three longtime educators have left to spend their retirement traveling and being with family, and three young new teachers have taken to their classrooms with an eagerness to become part of the community. Naas Elementary School gained two new teachers on Tuesday and Kelso Elementary School saw the promotion of a student teacher after losing a longtime educator to cancer.
Carolyn Cone, 27
Carolyn Cone's teaching career picked up where her mother's left off. Her mother was a teacher before her, and now Cone has already devoted six years of her life to the craft.
"I saw how much she loved her job," Cone said. "I wanted to make an impact on all of my students lives throughout my career, just like she did."
Now Cone plans to continue that work as a third-grade teacher at Sandy Grade School. In years prior she taught in her home state of Ohio.
Cone received her bachelor's degree in elementary education from Indiana University and her master's degree in teaching from the University of Cincinnati.
This year, Cone hopes to spend a great deal of time "getting to know my students — not only the kids in my classroom, but their families as well."
Ryan Aultman, 36
Though teaching is Ryan Aultman's second career, one could say for him, the profession is hereditary.
Aultman's wife is a fifth-grade teacher, his mother taught Sunday school classes and his father was a principal in Aultman's hometown of Vernonia, Ore.
Before receiving his master's degree in teaching from Concordia University, Aultman was utilizing his bachelor's degree in marketing and advertising as an insurance underwriter and agent.
He only made the switch to follow his passion a few years ago, so his position as a fifth-grade teacher at Sandy Grade School will be his first as a educator.
"When I was going to work every day at my company, my wife would tell me 'Every day you go, a little piece of you dies inside,'" Aultman explained.
In his new career, Aultman hopes to create a "classroom family," and really get to know his students.
Jessie Weitzel, 30
An experienced artist and art teacher, Jessie Weitzel is excited for her first year as a first grade teacher at Sandy Grade School.
Weitzel received her bachelor's degree in sculpture from the Pacific Northwest College of Art and her master's degree in the art of teaching from Marylhurst University.
Most recently, Weitzel was utilizing her creative skills at Touchstone Elementary in Lake Oswego, and before realizing her calling to teach, she worked in animation.
"I wanted a job where I could connect more with people," Weitzel explained.
Now starting her eighth year in teaching, Weitzel looks forward to meeting her new students.
"I think I'm most excited to get to know the community and have a lasting relationship with my students," the Portland native said.
Sophia Dale, 21
Sophia Dale, a new fifth-grade teacher, just received her bachelor's degree in elementary education from George Fox University and is ready to hit the ground running at Naas Elementary School.
As such, Dale is greatly looking forward to "building a community within the classroom."
"(I hope to help my students) not only grow academically, but collectively as a group," said the Oregon City native.
Dale also holds an ESOL endorsement, which she hopes to make an asset for the Naas community.
When she's not working, Dale enjoys kayaking, playing disc golf and doing a number of "outdoorsy" activities with her fiance.
Ashley O'Bryant, 34
Ashley O'Bryant is ready for a year of learning and the tough love only third-graders can provide.
The Grants Pass native said her inspiration to teach was her love of children.
"I love to see the 'ah-ha' moment, and I love the brutal honesty," she explained. "I'm looking forward to getting the kids as excited about third grade as I am."
O'Bryant received her bachelor's degree in early childhood education from Eastern Washington University and her master's degree in methods and curriculum from Concordia University.
She has taught both second and third grade in her 11 years of teaching.
When she's not behind a desk, O'Bryant loves to read, hike, camp, exercise and spend time with family.
Jessica Minch, 27
During her hard battle with cancer, Kelaurie Travis, former fourth-grade teacher at Kelso Elementary, knew she wouldn't see another first day of school, so she recommended her student teacher Jessica Minch to take her place.
Minch subbed at Kelso for several months last year, and is looking forward to "getting to know the staff."
"Kelso has an amazing staff," Minch said. "They're really great to work with."
Minch received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Chico State University and just obtained her master's in education in January. Kelso will be the first school of her teaching career.
Teaching appealed to Minch because as the member of a large family she "always loved being around kids."
"Knowing that you can mold these little minds and make them better people (is why I do it)," the Portland native explained. "(This year I hope to work on) finding my teaching self and just get into it."
When she's not working, Minch loves playing sports and spending time outdoors — she's even part of a slow-pitch softball team.