Thanks to a newly created position, teachers in Roseburg elementary and middle schools have an extra helping hand as schools resumed last week.

The position, known as Teachers on Special Assignment, resembles a cross between a teacher and administrator and is designed to help free up the principals to spend more time in the classrooms.

Corina VanBurger taught for 16 years and really wasn’t sure about applying for the job when it came up last year, but she decided it was the best way to support the district’s efforts of building relationships.

“It’s going to be a little crazy trying to get to know 750 students, but I’m up for the challenge,” VanBurger said. “As a teacher, I would have loved to have had somebody like this to be able to come in and help me with those kids that needed just little bit of extra attention that I might not be able to get to.”

She taught fifth grade at Hucrest Elementary School under Principal Doug Freeman with classes that ranged close to 30 kids sometimes. Now she is an extra person shared between Hucrest and Fir Grove to step in and support the administration, teachers and students.

“We are focusing that position on supporting our students for success around behavior and supporting our teachers around success regarding instruction,” Freeman said. “A student may be displaying a behavior that doesn’t meet the expectations of the school. Sometimes in negative behavior, sometimes students are just quiet. She is helping all students engage.”

Freeman said he wants to have VanBurger help identify needs and solutions for students to give them an optimum learning environment.

“By having a team approach to this, we can look at those students and let them know they are valued, they have a purpose in this school, there is no hierarchy here,” Freeman said. “This is the community’s school.”

The positions came about after a survey was given to all of the teachers last year on what would help them succeed better and according to Robert Emerson, the director of teaching and learning at the Roseburg Public Schools District Office, there was a massive request for more input and feedback from principals.

“We had feedback from teachers through some surveys we did that they really liked when the principal came in their classroom and was observing them,” Emerson said. “But the principals weren’t there enough, maybe a couple times a year.”

There is one helper in each of the middle schools and three at six of the eight elementary schools with a search for one more to help out at Fullerton and Melrose elementary schools.

Emerson said the cost is covered in part by the three-year collaboration grant received this year which pays for the two full-time middle school positions and the elementary school positions are funded by a reorganization of the teaching and learning department that eliminated some district level positions.

“It’s not costing us any extra,” Emerson said. “We’re basically spending the same amount of money as last year, but we are allocating it differently in order to provide better support. We’re pushing that support from the district office and instead paying for positions, the TOSAs, that are actually out in the schools. That all comes from the federal funding.”

Creating the position gives teachers a chance to see what working in administration looks like and gives them leadership experience without having to get a masters degree.

“We wanted to provide other leadership opportunities for teachers,” Emerson said. “Some of these TOSAs may want to become a principal at some point and this gives them the opportunity to practice some of those skills. Even if they don’t want to become a principal, it gives them a different experience as an educator beyond what they are doing in the classroom.”

For the first week between the two elementary schools, VanBurger said she started at one end of the hallway and popped into classrooms to make sure teachers were okay and students were aware of her presence. In just the first two days, she was able to work directly with students who needed that extra little bit of attention.

“We’re supporting the entire school, not just the students, not just the staff, but the entire school,” VanBurger said.

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Janelle Polcyn is the business reporter at the News-Review, graduated from the University of Texas, and is a podcast enthusiast.

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