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Fairfax Backs Beginners with BUS Program


Launching a teaching career can be stressful and isolating, but the Fairfax Education Association (FEA) is making it a little easier for teachers in the Beginners United for Success (BUS) program.

Lucky members of BUS this past year networked with colleagues at events ranging from a bowling excursion to a workshop on effective teaching strategies. The program aims at giving new teachers (new in their careers or new as Fairfax County employees) a boost while showcasing the value of Association membership.

"As teachers, we're not given an opportunity to talk with our colleagues a lot. We go to meetings, but we're often fed a bunch of information," said Precious Crabtree, a Fairfax art teacher who developed and helped launch the program in Fairfax. "The BUS events provide opportunities for members to talk with one another about what they're experiencing. Even if there are no easy solutions to the challenges they're facing, it's nice to know that you're not alone."

Several of the early BUS functions focused on networking, and organizers partnered with local businesses to help underwrite the fun. For example, BUS members met at "Dinner Done" to prepare several meals together that they could enjoy when their hectic schedules allowed. The company owner and the FEA pitched in to keep the cost down for participants. More recently, professional learning has taken center stage as BUS participants attend a free workshop on effective teaching strategies and toured the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum to find out how art could be brought into their curricula.

Crabtree is convinced the program, which currently includes 173 members, will build commitment to the Association. "New teachers coming into the profession sometimes find it hard to connect to the Association and what it offers," she said. "I believe BUS is going to open that door, because it gives us the opportunity to have real conversations with them about the work we do. That builds collegiality and also, eventually, earns their loyalty."

Recently, Crabtree learned that the NEA approved her grant request to support BUS with $9,500 over two years.

To learn more about the Fairfax BUS program, go to www.fairfaxea.org. You can also find them on Facebook through their Fan page.

Photo: Shannon Broughton demonstrates teaching strategies at an April BUS event.

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