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38 new teachers for MISD

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The Mercer Island School District welcomed 38 new faculty members this week, with teachers from as far away as Boston and Los Angeles.

According to Gary Plano, associate superintendent of instructional services, 38 teachers “is about where we’ve been in the past.”

But looking over the educators’ profiles, Plano, who is stepping in as interim superintendent for 2006-2007, was struck by this year’s diversity.

“We have a blend of both new and experienced teachers. There are some first-year teachers and those who’ve been retired that we’re re-hiring. So we’ve run the gamut on the background of experience,” he said.

Erin Heitman is both young and experienced.

On Sept. 4, the California native began her new role as Islander Middle School associate principal.

Heitman, 31, moved to Seattle from Hermosa Beach, Calif., in July. She has worked in education for seven years, and has taught both elementary and middle school. This will be the associate principal’s first administrative position, although she took on a number of administrative responsibilities while teaching.

A week before school began, Heitman said she already felt comfortable at IMS.

“The staff at IMS is very motivated,” the Californian said. “I’m excited to be part of a team that has a new vision. We’re all on the same page — to make the Island a stronger community.”

The Island is also a new environment for Heitman.

“It’s definitely a different district,” she said. “I’ve been teaching in a more diverse community but I’ve had experience in a similar community before as well.”

Heitman is eager to meet the Island’s students and looks forward to the school year. She and new principal Mary Jo Budzius will be working out their learning curves together.

Budzius, who formerly held Heitman’s position, replaced Sharon Gillaspie when she retired as IMS principal in June.

“I’m thrilled to be in this position, in this school, in this community,” Budzius said. “This is my fifth year at IMS, so it’s a pretty seamless transition.”

The new principle said her mission for the 2007-2008 school year was to “reach out to parents” in the community.

“At the middle school level, things start to become hands-off for parents and we really want them to keep being involved and feel welcome. So this is a new administration focus,” she said.

Budzius and Heitman have already discussed administrative visions, and are currently sharing their ideas with teachers and staff.

Meanwhile, Heitman is acquainting herself with life in the Northwest. So far, it hasn’t been too hard.

“Seattle is wonderful,” Heitman said. “It’s green and there’s no smog — two things I’ve never seen. Just crossing the I-90 bridge every day is beautiful.”

As for the weather, that will take some adjusting to.

“Winter will definitely be a transition for me,” she added. “I’ll have to buy shoes other than my flip-flops. But I think I’ll make it through.”

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