PORTLAND - The tale of two teachers, one veteran, one a rookie reveals some of the the pressures felt by educators in Portland’s classrooms.
At Lane Middle School in Southeast Portland, 23-year-old Aukeem Ballard carefully removes staples from a bulletin board.
“For me it’s more about representing to the students a fresh start. They deserve some sprucing up," he said.
Wednesday marks Ballard’s first day as a full time teacher.
“Nervous but excited,” is how Ballard described his feelings. He'll try to take 7th and 8th graders, some whose first language is Russian or Vietnamese or Spanish and blend them into one group.
That’s one reason he’s taking down last year’s maps and decorations from the wall.
“This is our classroom, this is our space,” he will tell the students.
As a rookie teacher, he's walking into a profession with fluctuating class sizes, budgets that never seem big enough, along with higher demands for graduation rates and student achievement.
“We've got to ramp up how much we're doing ... in an effective and efficient way especially with having to take holidays and furlough days for, because of budgets. It is what it is,” said Ballard.
One floor down, Frances Ankeny is about to begin her 28th year of teaching in Portland Public schools.
“The expectations have raised but we don’t still have the support we had when I first started teaching,” she said.
Ankeny says her school used to get extra money because students were not meeting bench marks.
“We now don’t have that. We're expected to teach the rigor without the support and I really see that in math we don’t have the extra help to help kids reach those higher expectations," Ankeny said.
Students from Reed College do come tutor but it’s not like the past according to Ankeny. She and others buy some class supplies themselves.
“A lot of money spent out of my own pocket," she said. Despite her frustrations, Ankeny is committed to teaching. “Somebody else had passion to make sure I made it through high school and headed off to college and so, that's why I do this. Even though it’s hard some days but it is more difficult, I believe that. Truly, more difficult,” Ankeny said.