Dana Cole

san pedro valley news-sun

With 15 new staff members starting Thursday, school district administrators organized a three-day orientation and training program last week for the new arrivals, kicking off the first day with a tour of the primary, secondary and high school campuses as part of the training.

Thirteen teachers and two paraprofessionals participated in the orientation sessions and tour on Wednesday, which also included a bus ride to different areas of town. Benson Unified School District Superintendent Dave Woodall served as the tour guide, where he pointed out new construction on the primary school campus, answered questions and talked about some of the residential developments that have come to the area, along with the town’s potential for more growth.

The tour touched on a construction project at the primary school, where an additional wing will house fifth grade on one side of the building and kindergarten on the other. While construction has been under way for awhile now, the project will not be completed until fall break, which is in mid-September, Woodall said.

“The kindergarten and fifth-grade teachers aren’t too happy about having to move into a new classroom after they’re all set up at the start of the year,” smiled Woodall. “But we’ve promised to give them a lot of help with the move, so maybe it won’t be so bad.”

Benson Primary School has been recognized as an “A” school by the Arizona Department of Education, a ranking based on a new A-F scale the state started last year. It’s one of three schools in Cochise County to have earned an “A” ranking, something Woodall mentioned to the group. The middle and high schools received “B” rankings, with the district working to bring those up to “A” schools as well.

The district’s old cafeteria has been renovated and now serves as a technology center, Woodall said. In addition, the group saw the athletic field where track, football, baseball, tennis and other sports are played.

During a thumbnail tour of the town, Woodall pointed out such locations as the post office, hospital, city pool and City Hall, and paused long enough at an RV Park to talk about the importance of the town’s RV visitors. “Our population doubles in the winter because of the RV’ers,” he said. “Benson has about 15 RV Parks and the population here literally ebbs and flows with our winter visitors. They are a very important part of Benson’s economy.”

The bus followed Ocotillo through some of Benson’s newer developments, heading west toward Highway 90, where Woodall pointed out a new Sulphur Springs Valley Electric office, as well as the Cochise College Benson Center, just off Highway 90. The tour looped around and headed back to the school district office, where the new teachers were treated to lunch, followed by more orientation sessions.

Philip Go, who is a fifth and sixth grade special education teacher, came to the area from Baltimore, Md., where he taught for five years. While he’s looking forward to starting the school year, he said living in a small town like Benson is going to take some adjustments on his part. “I’m excited about the move; but the small town is very different from what I’m used to,” said Go, who has family members in Arizona.

First-year teacher Stephanie Hall will be teaching seventh and eighth grade social studies. With a master’s degree from the University of Arizona, Hall said, “I’m really ready to start teaching.” She will be commuting to Benson from Tucson and is looking forward to learning more about Benson and the community. “I like the small town feel here and am impressed with the school,” she said.

Vicente and Martiza Rodriguez want to raise their two young children in a small community. “We’re thrilled with Benson,” said Vicente, who was raised in Duncan. “We love the area and we think it’s beautiful here.” Vicente will be teaching middle school computer classes, while Martiza will be teaching high school biology.

“Our new teachers come from all over,” said Woodall. “We have teachers from different parts of Arizona and from as far away as Maryland and Florida.”

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