New faculty joins Southwest for second semester Due to the addition of new teachers, many students are having schedule changes

Starting after winter break, adding new teachers has allowed for smaller class sizes for core classes. After a large intake of freshmen, many classes were larger than normal. “I love it at Southwest,” Whitney Lopez said. “Coming into the distance format, the biggest challenge was how do I adjust all these things that I know we used to hit on, but also, do I need to make adjustments so that I can kind of lighten the load a little bit, so that it’s not so overwhelming all the time.”

Three new members have joined the staff: Staci Fuller, teaching biology and chemistry, Whitney Lopez, teaching English 12 and Maritza De La Fuente, teaching English 9 and English 10. 

“I have teenagers and when we moved here, they were going to a CTA as a high school and they loved it,” Fuller said. “So I researched it a lot at home as a parent. When [Southwest] was looking for a science teacher I was just so excited. I know it’s a great school and a great little community. The staff is always so nice and helpful, so I really wanted to be a part of that.”

New English teacher Whitney Lopez previously worked for the district, then moved to Germany to be with her husband during the pandemic, who was stationed there for his military duties. 

“I’ve just been traveling in and out of the country for the last couple of years, just teaching,” Lopez said. “I’ve been teaching for almost eight years in CCSD, on and off, and teaching in different countries learning new things. Also, learning the way education is viewed in different countries and trying to pick up and learn and see what I can introduce and bring into the different classes here.”

Before moving to Las Vegas, English 9/10 teacher Maritza De La Fuente taught at a public school in Amarillo, Texas. 

“I’m looking forward to building relationships and trust,” De La Fuente said. “My students are in a unique position of not only learning virtually, since some have only known high school this way, but they were also moved from their teachers to my class. I’m a stranger to them, and I want them to be able to not only do my work and learn, but to also have them feel comfortable enough to engage in class, come to me with any questions, or whatever they may need.”

Chemistry and biology teacher Staci Fuller also has an extensive background, having previously taught English to students in Beijing, China. She also originally wanted to pursue a career in child psychology, but ultimately decided to switch to teaching. 

“I think this first week I just want to make sure that before we move on to a new topic they understand what they were being taught last semester,” Fuller said. “My main goal is to make sure everyone is okay and figure out how I can eliminate their stress. I know it’s a very stressful time at home and doing work online, so I like to just touch base with everyone, see how they learn, what works best for them and rearrange my courses to fit their needs.”

With the addition to the staff, students schedules have also changed and Principal Donna Levy is also glad to have more help. The new staff members are going to cause smaller class sizes for many core classes. 

“It’s always easier to start when you’re in person, so it is going to be a little odd because next year, much like our freshmen, they’re still going to be new,” Levy said. “But, they’re going to fit in great because they’re professionals, and they have incredible backgrounds. They’ve been educated in some of the best colleges across the country, and they are very caring people and I think they’re going to do a great job.”

Although some students are struggling with the schedule change, just as the teachers, they are adapting to the new environment and remain optimistic for the semester.

“I liked my other class schedule better because I had P.E. first, but I haven’t really got the chance to know my new teachers, so I will have to see if I still like my old schedule better,” sophomore Isela Chavarria said. “I think that schedule changes would be more frequent online because it’s easier to do than if it were in-person. If we were in an actual school, we would have to go to different classrooms and be used to different people, but online, you just have to put in a different Google Meets code.”

Although they are starting mid-way through the year, the new faculty are confident that they will be able to engage the students in creative learning. 

“Starting mid-year, I had to catch up quickly and assess the various challenges that the students were facing while getting used to my schedule and getting to know my colleagues,” Lopez said. “I was in true survival mode [in] November and December. I worked hard to engage in conversation with my students to ensure they were okay while introducing relevant content. Now that I’m better adapted to the virtual environment and got some much-needed rest over the break, I have definitely put an emphasis on having my students take ownership of their futures, and I’m pushing for them to advocate for themselves more. Overall, I’m happy at SWCTA. I’ve gotten to know some really great students, and I look forward to seeing them reach their goals.” 

Do you think it’s difficult for a teacher to start halfway into the school year?