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Phoenix Forward

What’s your best advice for first-year teachers?

Tips for new teachers

Summer means school’s out, but it also means new teachers are preparing for their first year in the classroom. We asked several University of Phoenix College of Education graduates — who are also experienced teachers with years in the classroom — to share their advice for their newest colleagues:


“My advice for new teachers is to practice the three F's — firm, friendly and fair. Establish clear boundaries and expectations from your students on day one. Routines will really help as the year progresses. Realize they are kids and that they need a gentle voice to teach them in a friendly way, which works big time over fear. Then being fair is essential because students are always measuring fairness in their minds.”

— Todd Stengel, TED/CLAD, special education teacher and STARS grant recipient


“My first piece of advice would be: Don't be afraid to ask for help. No one expects you to be perfect or get everything right your first year. You have a tremendous amount of support out there available to you, and you should use it.”

— Thomas Lee, MAEd, middle school teacher and STARS grant recipient


“When you first become a teacher, you come in with so many ideas on what you want to achieve in the classroom, but you haven’t actually applied them yet. Instead of plunging right in with all those new ideas, spend your first year as a follower of more experienced teachers. Don’t think that you have all the answers, because trust me, you don’t!”

— Lisa Highfill, MAEd, fifth-grade teacher, College of Education faculty


“As a first-year teacher, you need a lot more planning time because things aren’t always going to go smoothly. Having enough time to get everything done your first year is a challenge, especially if you have a family. Go in early or stay late to work on your lesson plans and grading, and take out time on weekends, too. Always have a backup plan.”

— Mindy Creason, MAEd, early childhood and kindergarten teacher


“My biggest advice to first-year teachers is always to remember that we are not producing widgets; we’re teaching kids — living, breathing human beings that are all different. Just because the textbook tells you a lesson plan will work in a certain way doesn’t mean it will. Always be flexible in your lesson plans, because every class is unique. And push all of your students hard to reach their full potential — don’t just teach to the minimum standard.”

—Mark L. Fontaine, EdD, high school science teacher


“Remember not to overdo things. My first year, I tried to help every student every step of the way, and it burned me out. I soon [learned] how to divide up my time over the school year so that I got to know what each student needed, and focused in that one area every other week.”

— Sara Mendoza, MAEd, first-grade teacher and STARS grant recipient