Among the experienced taking part in the morning and afternoon sessions was Todd Mayben. Previously a special educator in Polk County, he will teach math at South Central Middle when the school year begins Monday.
"I just felt like Bartow County was a good move for me," Mayben said. "I have a leadership degree also, not just [a] teaching [background], so hopefully in the future I can move up in the system. I felt like Bartow County offered me the best opportunity."
Mayben said the education field was a second career to him. With an undergraduate degree in horticulture, his earlier years saw him working in management roles in and around the garden facilities of Pike Nurseries, Lowe's and Walmart. A familiar connection to the teaching field -- his parents are retired educators -- and a desire to help young people led him to the career change.
"I wanted a career that made a difference, whereas I felt like Lowe's and all those, I was kind of building the company for them, not really making a difference. Students make a difference," he said.
New to the field is Drew Elrod, a former football player and graduate from Adairsville High School. A May graduate of Shorter University, he will teach sixth-grade World History and coach basketball at Adairsville Middle School and at Adairsville High will coach the football team's running backs.
Elrod said his desire to teach stemmed from seeing positive role models during his school years, and an aspiration to serve as such an example to today's students.
"I went to Adairsville and had been in the school system from Pine Log Elementary to Adairsville Middle to Adairsville High School. Teachers that I've had, and coaches too, really inspired me to reach another level than I thought I could as far as in the classroom and on the field, and just different things about being a good citizen and growing up and being a man," Elrod said. "I feel like today that a lot of our young people, they may not have that at home, especially a lot of our males and some of our ladies, they don't have people there to support them and show them how you're supposed to operate in this society and how to be a grown person.
"I think if we can get more people to come together and get behind those kids, I think it will be very beneficial," he added.
Elrod said his new position will have him working with several educators who were there at the middle school when he was a student.
"I had those teachers, and I know how great teachers they are, so I know that the students will be getting what they need. And as a first-year teacher, I'll learn so much just being around people like that," he said. "I'll admit that coming out [of college], I still have a lot to learn, so having those people around to support will be good."
The 32 new and seasoned educators who took part in Tuesday's orientation represented a smaller group of newcomers to the district than it had in years past.
"Two years ago, we had 160 in the room. That's a sign of the times with the economic condition we've all been suffering under," Superintendent John Harper said.
Economic factors earlier this year led the district to enact reduction-in-force protocols, which led to the release of more than 80 teachers. Harper said system officials 10 times this summer sent out information to those impacted educators regarding open jobs. That led to about 60 of those teachers being hired back.
"We had a few folks retire, or got married and moved on, or are staying home with children -- those normal things that happen with attrition," Assistant Superintendent Ben Desper said. "It really surprised me that we were able to do that, because last year there wasn't as much movement. But this year, there were a few more people that retired and a few more people that moved, so we were able to absorb some of those people who would have otherwise lost a job.
"I think we've worked really hard this summer at getting that information out to them. I wish there were a few more we could've hired back," he added. "There's still some folks that are very hirable teachers that we'd like the opportunity to employ, and hopefully maybe something will come up."
As the district gears up for the first day of classes Monday, Harper said the state's enrollment projection has the system at 14,430, which would represent a slight decrease from the previous year. He attributed the potential dip to factors such as area factory closings and families moving to other areas to pursue employment.
But Harper said he felt the system would post a slightly higher enrollment total than that one projected, adding that the first-day numbers likely will increase over the subsequent school days.
Cartersville City Schools held its new teacher orientation over two days last week, with all other teachers returning Friday. Cartersville Assistant Superintendent Ken Clouse said his system had 12 new teachers -- 10 with experience, ranging from one to 29 years, and two who had been teacher aides or paraprofessionals in the district and had recently obtained their teaching credentials.
The dozen arrivals slightly topped last year's newcomer count of 10, though the district has brought in more new teachers in prior years.
"In previous years, we would range from somewhere between 20 and 30, so we've been down the last couple of years, but as one of the professional organizations who were here to talk to them said to us, they thought we were one of the few systems that was actually hiring new people and not rehiring folks that had been laid off or something like that," Clouse said.
Cartersville Schools ended its previous school year in May with 4,008 students. Clouse said the system on Tuesday had close to 4,300 students names on the rolls, but only time will tell what the day-one enrollment, and beyond will be. The district begins its school year Thursday.
"We always have no-shows, so we'll have to see how it settles out," he said. "All the schools are reporting to us that they are regularly enrolling new students. Until Thursday, Friday, Monday comes, it's hard to say."