Photo by Garland Wright
Chadron State College Senior, Calyn Degnan (on the left), is finishing her final year of college and completing her teacher internship at Edgemont School District. Standing to Degnan’s right is new Edgemont High School Science teacher, Catherine Murphy.
By Garland Wright
EDGEMONT – Edgemont School has added two members to the teaching staff in the Spring semester. One of the new staff members is Catherine Murphy, the new high school science teacher. Another new staff member is Calyn Degnan, who is a High School and Middle School English Teacher Intern. Teacher Interns are college seniors in the last semester of their teaching degree. Traditional teacher certification programs require students to complete a student teaching program as the final phase of their degree acquisition.
Catherine Murphy, the new High School Edgemont science teacher, is filling a permanent position that, until Spring, had been taught via a virtual setting with a teacher online. Like many other school districts throughout South Dakota and the nation, Edgemont has had difficulty filling vacant positions in the school. More school districts are turning to virtual offerings to fill vacant positions and teach offerings that would otherwise be left empty. While Edgemont has been able to fill all the current teaching vacancies, teacher shortages will likely continue to persist as college students are looking to other less strenuous professions or to other higher-paying states for employment opportunities in the teaching profession.
Murphy is no stranger to the teaching profession. She has taught for 25 years in the middle and high school grades. She has taught a variety of sciences, and in the last position she held, she taught exceptional education students. Teaching in locations such as Tennessee, New York, Connecticut, and Germany, Murphy has encountered many classroom settings and cultures. When asked why Murphy would make such a drastic move in location from Chattanooga to Edgemont, the answer was simple, family. Murphy’s parents reside in Edgemont, and her father, Owen Murphy, has been a beloved Edgemont school bus driver for years. Though the move to the Black Hills happened faster than Murphy initially anticipated, she is ready for the change of pace Edgemont offers.
“One of my goals is to see what this lab has to inspire these kids. I want to inspire kids to remember that science is fun,” Murphy explains. For the remainder of the school year, Murphy will continue to support the distance learning teacher in the science classroom since the students are already established in their current courses. However, Murphy intends to bring the lab element that often goes missing in distance learning classes. Murphy has already conducted labs with students to enhance the science program, like evaluating how bubbles react to extreme cold and extracting DNA from bananas. Next year science courses will return to in-person learning with Murphy as the full-time science teacher.
Calyn Degnan is another new staff member working with Edgemont students this semester, though her position is temporary, as she is a college senior at Chadron State College. Degnan is currently pursuing her teaching degree in Secondary English education. As a Hot Springs native, Degnan knew she wanted to teach close to home. Since joining the staff at Edgemont, Degnan has been working with both the Edgemont Middle and High School English classes. Degnan works under the guidance of Middle School English teacher Blake Esker and High School English teacher Garland Wright.
“I didn’t know what to expect in Edgemont, but the staff and students have been very welcoming. I have learned more in front of the classroom than I have in any teacher prep classes in college. Even though I have to commute 45 minutes to teach here, I couldn’t have picked a better student teaching position. When I feel like I fall in my instruction, I have a lot of people to pick me up and dust me off. I enjoy that Edgemont School feels like a family,” stated Calyn Degnan.
Degnan is required to student teach for a minimum of 16 weeks. While teaching is Degnan’s primary focus, she is also required to attend to all the duties of a full-time teacher. For instance, teacher interns must attend in-services and student-teacher conferences. Also, teacher interns are encouraged to participate in other teacher duties like supporting extracurriculars and clubs. Come April, Degnan will phase out of the classroom instructor role and begin preparing for her graduation from Chadron State College. After graduation, Degnan intends to return to Nebraska to teach English and is currently seeking full-time positions for next fall. Until then, Degnan will sharpen her teaching skills in Edgemont and continue to support her local community.