The beginning of the school year can be just as stressful for teachers as it is for students and families, maybe even more. Especially for first-year classroom teachers, it can be a little nerve-racking but exciting at the same time.

The Kyrene School District hired about 60 teachers before the start of the school year.

One of those was Julie Perks, who will be starting her first full year with a classroom all to herself at Kyrene Monte Vista Elementary School.

Perks previously worked as a gifted-resource teacher but it was a pull-out program. This year she will be teaching Kyrene's first self-contained fourth-grade classroom at Monte Vista.

The gifted program invites students who are adept in one or all three of the categories of cognitive ability - non-verbal, verbal and mathematics.

"I'm excited about the challenge of differentiating instruction depending on the child's level," she said.

Perks has 17 years experience in the classroom but this will be the first time she has had the same kids and the same classroom all day.

She spent her summer in the classroom herself, brushing up on some subjects, and preparing for her first day.

"Learning is not just reading, writing and arithmetic," she said. "I'm there to challenge them to think a little more. To keep them on their toes and interested."

Fellow Monte Vista teacher Tanya Dickson is a local mom who will be starting her first year as a kindergarten teacher.

She has worked in kindergarten classrooms as an aid, but decided that she wanted to take that to the next level and recently achieved a master's degree in early childhood education.

She started at Kyrene de la Estrella on lunch duty, moved to a kindergarten aid, then, most recently to a job at the district office. But the thought of teaching called her back to the classroom.

"I found over the years that my passion was teaching," she said. "The excitement the kids have in kindergarten was what made me want to teach that grade level. All the teachers here have been helping me and it has made me feel very comfortable."

The hiring process was quick for Dickson. She interviewed last week and was hired on Friday. On Monday she filled out paperwork and was in the classroom, setting up on Tuesday.

"It was a very quick process but I am so excited to be at Monte Vista," she said.

One thing that Perks was able to take part in, but Dickson did not because she was hired too late, was the new educator orientation Monday through Thursday of last week.

But she said the literacy coach has been helping her with curriculum in preparation for the coming school year.

The 2011-12 school year starts on Monday, Aug. 8.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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