For two Comal Independent School District teachers starting their teacher careers with their first classrooms this semester, school in Comal ISD is more than familiar.
Middle school English teacher Carlee Foster and middle school assistant band director Ashley Gorden — both Smithson Valley High School and UTSA graduates — are beyond excited to return to the district as teachers.
Foster will teach 6th grade English and language arts at Danville Middle School starting Tuesday, whereas Ashley will teach music education at Canyon Middle School. The two young women said they feel fortunate to return to such a prestigious district, this time as members of the faculty.
“I grew up in Spring Branch and was in Comal ISD since Kindergarten,” Foster said. “I student taught at Smithson Valley and then subbed for a year while I figured out which grade I wanted to do.”
As the assistant band director of Canyon Middle School, Gorden will be working with students ranging from 6th grade to 8th grade teaching them their instrument and helping them work on playing together.
“I’ve always lived in Bulverde, but I went to Christian Heritage in San Antonio until 8th grade,” Gorden said. “I student taught at Canyon High School and middle school, and also did some subbing.”
Getting to know the kids is what Foster said she is most excited about.
“I knew I wanted to end up in Comal, so to have that right off the bat has been amazing,” Foster said. “The district has been great, they’ve been so helpful and checking in to make sure we’re ready and feel taken care of, and not all district’s do that for their teachers.”
Gorden said she is most excited to help guide students to a love of music and it’s surreal to be teaching in the same district she attended school in.
“Everything has just come together, it’s been where God placed me and I’m very thankful,” Gorden said.
Teaching was an obvious choice for Foster, who said she loved reading books to her little cousins as kids.
“I had teachers who made such an impact on me and my life during a really critical time,” Foster said. “Those middle school and high school years can be hard for kids. I needed that teacher to see me, and I want to be that for others now.”
For Gorden, teaching became the clear choice during her senior year of high school, she said.
“It was the spring semester as I was about to graduate (high school) and I’m a saxophone player, I just loved band — and it was then I realized I want to be a band director someday,” Gorden said. “I had quite a few moments during student teaching where it was just like, ‘Wow this is it, yes, this is what I love.’”
Student teaching was challenging, but rewarding, Foster said. Foster said she spent a year subbing to try to better hone in on a grade level to teach.
“I fell in love with helping middle school kids grow,” Foster said. “They’re still moldable, they still look up to you and I like that aspect.”
Foster said what makes the challenges all worth it is that moment you realize you as a teacher have made an impact on a child, which she saw even while substituting.
“These kids just want someone to acknowledge them a lot of the time, want someone to say hi to them and some of them have really hard home lives,” Foster said.
Watching a child as they understand a new piece of information is also a reward in and of itself, Gorden said.
“Seeing them apply something in a way that means they really understand it, and knowing you helped them get there is such a powerful thing,” Gorden said.
Overall, both young women said they are excited to have the first of many stories as teachers this year and to work with their students and parents to create the workforce of tomorrow.
“I saw my name on a kid’s schedule for the first time this week and I was like, ‘Wow this is real, that’s my name,’” Gorden said excitedly. “We’re just so happy to be here.”