Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 21, 2013

It takes a village to raise a child and keep teachers closer to home

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Job hunting often leads to very fast changes in your life. Not very long ago, I left the newspaper business and tried a new career in teaching. After earning a teaching degree at Concord University, I started job hunting and attended a teacher’s job fair; one of the vendors was from Henry County, Va. A couple weeks later, I got a call from the principal of Magna Vista High School. Could I start tomorrow?

Well, no, I couldn’t start that next day. I had to visit Henry County for the first time in my life, sit through an interview, and then find a place to live. The board of education gave me a list of vacant apartments and I started hunting.

The place I ended up with was less than ideal. It was a small downstairs apartment with a small bedroom, little bathroom and a small combination living room and kitchen. I now officially rate it as the next to worst place I had ever lived in, but it was the only lodging available and I needed a place right then.

I had to report for work that next week, so I quickly moved with help from my parents and multiple exhausting trips to Henry County and back to Fayette County where I was living at the time. Getting phone service, Internet service, and electricity was on the list, too. My power was switched on the day before I reported to my new job.

Anyone who tells you that teaching is an easy job is, to put it politely, utterly insane. Your day doesn’t end when the students go home. There are hours of grading papers, generating lesson plans, and filling out endless forms to meet state requirements. You are constantly going to mandatory seminars, meeting with parents, and taking work home just so you can keep on track. My weekends were consumed with school work; my bed doubled as a secondary desk.

The worst part was the loneliness. I found myself missing my parents, relatives and my Daily Telegraph family, and I had little time to form friendships. The veteran teachers at Magna Vista did their best to back me up, but the workload, classroom management and stress wore me down.

After a year and a half, I decided I had had enough and returned to Mercer County. I still tell incredulous friends that a job that involves covering murder trials and driving to crashes is, at least to me, a vacation compared to teaching. You have to be a special person to be in that profession. I’m glad I returned to journalism and writing, but I can’t help but sometimes wonder if I would have stuck with teaching if the circumstances could have been a little different.

An effort is now underway in McDowell County to create a place that could make a difference for teachers new to the region. It is a teachers village with about 30 apartments, study areas, a coffee shop and other facilities. An architect is now studying whether this village could be established in a Welch building— and there are plenty of interesting buildings in Welch — or built on a vacant site. I’m envisioning a large apartment building with facilities on the ground floor.

Whenever I’m in downtown Welch, I look at the buildings and wonder what I would do with one if I had the money to buy it and renovate it. I’m always picturing apartments, art galleries, antique shops and things like that. Well, I’d do a man antique place specializing in antique firearms, knives, military memorabilia and things like that.

What this project would do is give new teachers a decent place to live and a place where they could find mutual support and share ideas. Being alone in a new area is tough, especially when you’re hundreds of miles away from home and starting a new career. A place like a teachers village would offer more human contact with like minded people who are undergoing the same stresses and problems.

I don’t know if such a place would have helped me, but maybe it would have had a positive influence. I wouldn’t have felt so alone and out of my element.

The village could have a positive impact for Welch, too, since it would bring an influx of new residents. The teachers would need services such as groceries and things to do when they’re not grading homework or planning new lessons, and the money they spend would help the local economy.

I will be interested to see how this project turns out, and I hope to see the village when it is completed. Going back to teaching is out of the question at this stage of my life; I’ve decided to stick to where I am now.

I’m not sure this teachers village would allow spiders or snakes, and I have three of the former and one of the latter. I kept a couple of plants in Henry County, and they were not much company.

Greg Jordan is the Daily Telegraph’s senior writer. Contact him at