USE OF PROPS:

Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter speaks at an event Monday welcoming new teachers and instructional coaches to the community. He’s holding a pillow with an emoji face that was one of several props he used — then gave away — during a speech that humorously touched on some of the challenges teachers face in the classroom.

BULLHEAD CITY — New teachers preparing to start work at local public schools next month were treated to a breakfast buffet as well as gift bags and door prizes donated by local businesses. The bags contained coupons, pill holders, hand sanitizers, sunglasses, lip balm and other handy items along with information about the area.

The event was held Monday morning at Mohave Community College. The MCC Foundation, Bullhead Chapter, sponsored the welcoming event. Buses sat waiting outside the building that transported the new teachers and instructional coaches to begin orientation to their new positions.

New teachers and instructional coaches from Bullhead City Elementary, Mohave Valley Elementary, and Colorado River Union High School districts spend five days total in training before school begins early next month. People returning to those types of jobs join in on the training later in the week, said Melinda Sobraske, president of the MCC Foundation, Bullhead Chapter. She’s also sits on the Bullhead City Elementary School District board and is a retired teacher.

She also provided the attendees, these new employees along with area school and college administrators, a warm greeting. 

New teachers and instructional coaches hail from all parts of the country, though an increasing number of these professionals have local ties. More of them do than don’t, said Riley Frei, superintendent at Colorado River Union High School District and Bullhead City Elementary School District.

“There’s no real pattern to where these new employees are coming from,” Frei said. “But efforts to grow our own employees are working.”

Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter spoke to the group next. He brought his own special goody bag to the podium. It was filled with props for his speech about things “Teachers Need to Know to Be Successful in the Classroom This Year.”

It was a lighthearted recognition of the challenges teachers face when trying to capture and hold the attention of their students. With the start of each new school year comes a batch of new distractions and youth-centric things teachers would benefit from knowing about as they try to reach out to their students. 

Cotter used his smartphone to play a song to which many youths are listening. It has an infectious beat. He told everyone in the room they could hear it by going to YouTube.com and entering the letter “D.” 

But, “be very careful playing that song in the classroom,” Cotter advised while smiling and grooving to the beat. Its Spanish-language lyrics are highly suggestive with a lot of “breathing” and “murmuring.” 

The audience responded to the news about the lyrics — and his delivery of the information — with laughter.

He pulled out a plastic water bottle next. Kids “flip them all day long,” he said. The audience laughed again.

Cotter went into his bag once more and brought out something small and plastic. These days, many youths enjoy looking at Fidget Spinners, little objects that look like a ceiling fan in motion — if the fan had a crazy design and many colors. These toys were originally designed to help students with ADD but now seem to be in most young people’s hands when they aren’t on their mobile phones.

He tossed a spinner into the audience. Several sets of hands were held out by people wanting to catch Cotter’s prize. Some adults appear to like these toys, too.

Then out of the bag came some bright yellow pillows. They had emoji faces on them. Youths use emojis to communicate with each other on their mobile phones when they don’t want to communicate with words. The symbols are shorthand for a lot of thoughts. 

Those pillows also went out into the audience.

Cotter then asked if the audience of mostly educators thought they would be successfully teaching spelling this year. The expression on his face was one someone has when they’re about to say “you’ve got another thing coming.”

He pulled out sheets of paper with words on them to illustrate the classroom challenge that stands ahead. Some contained words seen in print, emails and on websites. Others had abbreviations and acronyms of the same words when texting.

Texting is something youths love to do. And they seem to be doing it virtually all of the time. They are the ones making up the many of the abbreviations and acronyms everyone uses for texting. 

“Thanks” is “THX” and “tomorrow” is “2moro.” “NOYB” is short for the classic phrase uttered by teenagers to their parents and pretty much everyone else they encounter: “None of your business.”

Cotter finished the giveaway portion of his speech by tossing out pairs of socks with designs that, if printed on T-shirts, might be forbidden under “school dress codes.”

He became a little more serious by suggesting these new employees become better acquainted with the community by volunteering. Their energy and enthusiasm to help others will be welcome in an area where 18 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, he said.

Whether inside or outside the classroom, Cotter said, “you might meet some children in need and become their best friend, their role model.” 

Shawn Bristle, Bullhead City Campus dean for MCC, spoke next.

“What you do is really, really important,” he said to the group. “How you come to school and present yourself every day matters.”

One of the new teachers had finished his breakfast and sat at a table before it was time to board a bus and begin orientation at the district office. He seemed to be on the same wavelength as Bristle  by wearing a long-sleeved shirt and a dark tie. Even in more professional attire than many of the others, Sam Elander still appeared much younger than everyone else seated around him.

Elander, 23, will be teaching Algebra 1 at Mohave High School.

“I’ll be encouraging students to problem solve and succeed,” he said. 

Elander came from Arkansas because he wanted a change of pace by moving out west. Though the weather is very hot here it’s also quite warm in the south.

And, he said, “Arkansas is so humid.”  

Most Bullhead and Mohave Valley area schools start the first week of August.

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