GREENFIELD — For some teachers, a career in education can induce a bit of deja vu.
They make their way through familiar halls. They’re greeted by faces that conjure memories from years past.
Whether by happy coincidence or by choice, they wind up teaching at a school they once attended.
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The teachers they looked up to as children become the mentors who help them in their new roles. The classrooms where they fell in love with learning becomes the place where they inspire the next generation of learners.
Hiring teachers who are alumni can be beneficial for the teacher and school, but it can also present unique challenges, said Eastern Hancock School Corp. Superintendent Randy Harris.
“We only hire the best teachers we can find,” Harris said. “The advantage with hiring teachers who went here is we know what they’re capable of, we know what we’re getting into.”
And those teachers tend to stay in school corporations longer, he said, because they’re moving back home.
But returning home immediately after graduation and staying longterm can rob teachers of different experiences, he said.
Still, many who return to their alma maters report the move is a positive experience. It offers them a chance to teach and live in the communities where they grew up.
‘A full-circle momen
After graduating from college, Lauren Bailey never imagined she’d wind up teaching at Mt. Comfort Elementary School, where she attended kindergarten through fifth grade from 1986 to 1992.
It wasn’t in the plans. She first taught at the Mt. Vernon Community School Corp.’s intermediate school. When it closed, a position at Mt. Comfort opened, and she applied. Bailey now teaches fifth grade. Her students roam the same halls she once did.
“I don’t think it was ever something I thought would happen,” she said. “It was out of my control.”
Until this year, she taught alongside her own fifth-grade reading teacher from her time at the elementary school as a student. He and other great teachers she had as she grew up in the corporation inspired her to become a teacher.
Teaching beside them has been a wonderful experience, she said.
“I grew up in these halls,” she said. “Until recently, I had worked with teachers I had as a student. That was kind of neat. … Now as an adult, I get to see a different perspective of their classrooms,” she said. “It’s kind of like a full-circle moment.”
One of her favorite parts of teaching at Mt. Comfort is telling her students she sat and learned in the same classrooms where they now spend their days.
“They love it,” she said.
But she doesn’t think teaching in the school she attended makes her a better teacher than others.
“I think it’s just something that happens,” she said. “When I look at our staff, we have so many good teachers. … I think it’s just an added bonus being back in the school you started from.”
Nathan Bruck graduated from Greenfield-Central High School in 1998. After graduating from Indiana State University, he thought he and his wife would settle in Terre Haute.
Then, she got a job teaching in the corporation where Bruck was once a student. And so, the pair moved back to Greenfield.
When a position teaching high school economics opened, Bruck applied and was offered the job.
Teaching in the school corporation he graduated from offered a sense of comfort to Bruck. He knew the school’s reputation, and he knew what type of people he’d be working next to.
After all, some of his colleagues were once his teachers.
While many things have changed in the 17 years since he graduated, the traditions and heritage of the school are the same, he said.
And he enjoys sharing those with his students.
“This has always been home to me, and this community has been home to me, so the school feels like home to me in a lot of ways, too,” Bruck said. “That’s a good feeling.”
As a high school senior, like so many of his peers, he couldn’t wait to leave Greenfield. He never imagined he’d return, let alone be so happy about it.
But when it came to settling down, raising a family and finding someplace to spend his career, coming home made sense.
Teaching juniors and seniors, he sees the same angst he once experienced. Those are the students who often wonder why Bruck returned to Greenfield.
“Some of them are just so set on getting out of this place,” he said. “It’s kind of funny. You get the whole spectrum.”
He typically tells students on his first day of class he’s a Greenfield-Central graduate, and throughout the year, he’ll test them to see if they remember.
“I always ask bonus questions, like what was my high school mascot,” he said. “Some of them get it, and some of them don’t.”
Having attended Eastern Hancock schools from kindergarten to high school graduation, Megan Wallace knew that a large corporation wasn’t the place for her when it came to starting her teaching career.
The class of 2000 graduate taught at Shenandoah High School for a year after graduating from college, but returning home always appealed to her.
And her ties to the school where she was once a Royal were many.
Both of her parents graduated from Eastern schools; her husband graduated from there, and his parents graduated from there.
“I felt more connected to the community around Eastern Hancock,” Wallace said.
Because she grew up in the school system and returned there shortly after graduating, she’s seen it change throughout the years, which has been a surreal experience, she says.
“I get to see the school evolve and change, and I know where it’s been,” she said. “And I get to see where it’s going.”
She’s one of at least 10 alumni working at Eastern Hancock’s middle and high schools. Those teachers, she said, remind students returning home after graduation isn’t unimaginable, and the community is a worthwhile place to be, Wallace said.
The school is her history, and it’s her future. And the tradition is ongoing.
Her daughter started kindergarten at Eastern Hancock Elementary School this year.
“It really is a part of my family,” she said. “This building, this school, these people. Teaching is a calling. I was called home, and I’m so glad I was.”
“Teaching is a calling. I was called home, and I’m so glad I was.”
– Megan Wallace, Eastern Hancock High School English teacher