New Teachers at Key West High

By: The Snapper Staff

As we enter another year or start a new chapter of our lives, it’s not just all freshmen or new students who are newcomers but many educators as well. For this article, different reporters from the Snapper went around to interview either new/returning teachers to Monroe county, or new to teaching in general with two years or less of experience.

Richard Barber is a first year teacher at the high school. He’s probably one of the youngest teachers in our school. He just graduated not too long ago either. The subjects that he teaches are English and Film and would like to let it stay that way. Barber came back to this school because he wanted to go back to his community he was accustomed to.

“I’ve grown up here and just graduated about five years ago. I felt like I would be more comfortable going back into my own community, something I’m more familiar with.” 

His inspiration for teaching came from him loving and hating his teachers as he grew up. “There’s always those teachers I hate and I loved and hated. I want to do stuff that the teacher I liked and with the teacher I hated, I wanted to change the ways and do some things different and better.”  He believed that he could do better than the teachers that he disliked in the past.

 One thing he’s looking forward to this year is the creativity in his students. What brought him back here was his home of honor. 

He wants to be a teacher as long as he could handle it. “My school year has been a little tough but that’s just the process of being a new teacher. I’m looking forward to this school year and see what the students are bringing me.”

William “Billy” Burnett is one of fifteen new teachers to the Monroe County School System this year. He teaches personal fitness and weightlifting to all Key West High School Students.

As Burnett explained it, he found this particular job out of coincidence. Burnett had been looking for jobs in Broward and Dade County when he told himself: “‘Well there’s one more county below Dade, so let me just see if they have any teaching positions.’” As it turned out, they did!

 Burnett has always had a great passion for teaching and helping kids. “Everyone participating, with smiles on their faces and trying their best, that’s what I look forward to every day…” Burnett said, “…I just really enjoy seeing kids progress physically.”

Beyond both these reasons, Burnett feels that it is almost a family legacy to educate. “My father was a teacher for a short time, [and] both my aunts are principals. On that side of the family, everyone’s in education,” he says. Apparently, it was his aunts who originally awoke him to the possibility of teaching physical education. “My aunts said: ‘hey PE’s a great lifestyle and you love to play’… and I do.”

Burnett also took this job simply because of Key West itself. “After my school got destroyed from Hurricane Michael, I wanted to find somewhere new to live. And what better place than here,” says Burnett. Though these traumatic events are fresh to him, Burnett is excited to get to know some of Key West’s unique properties. “I’m looking forward to… no longer having cold winters. In Panama City, it gets to about 30 degrees [Fahrenheit] sometimes… So on a personal note, I’m looking forward to a warm winter. So I’m ready for that,” explains Burnett.

Burnett is looking forward to this school year greatly and it’s already started. “Everyone is off to a great start, no one is sitting out everyone’s trying their best and that really makes my heart happy,” Burnett sums up.

Kevin Burton, a recent addition to our staff, relates to feeling lost and having to start over by explaining his goals for his students, “I want them to pick up skills along the way, and not just math. When they graduate, things are a little different. World’s different than high school”

Burton would know, as his first career did not have to do with teaching, however, it did lead him down this new path, “When I came out of the military they had a program for soldiers that were transitioning. Honestly when I got off of duty they looked at me and said, ‘Hey why don’t you be a teacher,’ and I said, ‘A teacher?'” The rest is history. 

Now he has been teaching for seven years. Currently he teaches Geometry Honors, Algebra 1,and Personal Career. Burton tells us this is because, “I’ve always been good at math. ” 

When it comes down to it, teachers are much like their students. Both are just trying to get through another school year and make the most out of it. When asked what he was looking forward to, Burton, like most students, answered, “Real answer? Summer.” Of course he was only kidding. His second answer was simple, but significant, “No, just having a good year for me and the kids.”

15 new teachers joined us this year. Kevin Burton is just one of them. His past reflects in his ways of teaching. Burton makes sure to not just teach what is required by the school board, but also life skills the teens will need once they are out in the world.

Mrs. Karen Castro is one of the Spanish teachers at Key West High School. She teaches Spanish 3 Honors and AP Spanish Language and Cultures. She’s new to Key West, seeing as she’s only been teaching here one year, but has plenty of experience from teaching at a college back in her home country, El Salvador, for twelve years. She had started in her free time. When she got married, she moved to the United States here to be with her husband who had already been living here, and has been here for five years now. 

“I love teaching so I thought high school can be a good experience, and I’m loving teaching at the high school.” She said. “I had a passion to share the knowledge…” Mrs. Castro stated. “I believe students are the future… to any country. I believe you guys are the future, future mayors, future presidents…”  She loves helping kids and watching them progress as she explained. Mrs. Castro is looking to help students succeed in the future the most this year. “I love to help… and if I can help everyone to be a better person, to be a better student, to succeed in the future, I’ll do it. That’s my goal… helping everyone I can.” She said. She is loving it and here feels that Key West is a second home to her now, that it is very similar to her hometown in Santa Ana.

Mrs. Coates is one of our History teachers at Key West High. She teaches World History and World History Honors. She is also new here, but she has been teaching for five years in three different states including Hawaii, Washington, and now Florida. She is a military wife so when her husband was stationed here, she followed and is planning on staying for three years. “I like it a lot here, I like warm weather, and everyone’s very welcoming so..” 

She is a mother of four children and has loved the experience. “I have four children and I loved watching them grow up, and develop into young adults.” Mrs. Coates is especially excited to be participating in extracurricular activities, clubs, and getting to know the students better. As well as learning more about Key West’s culture.

Mrs. Duffy is one of the new teachers at Key West High. She is a Marine Biology teacher at the high school. Mrs. Duffy decided to return close to home after school and began a teacher at our school. 

“When I was in high school, I was in a program for kids that wanted to be teachers.” Mrs. Duffy explained when asked when she decided she wanted to be a teacher, “So around ninth grade.” However, she wasn’t always serious about teaching. “I went to college for science then went back to graduate school for more science and I realized I wanted to teach.”

Mrs. Duffy, who, “teach[es] marine science and marine science honors,” explained her reason why she loves to teach. “There’s so many things I enjoy. When the students understand something and you can see the bulb go off. I like when students have new ideas that challenge my understanding, and being able to interact with people all day.”

Mrs. Duffy who used to live in Big Pine and work with sea camp decided to work here as soon as she realized of the opening. “This position opened and it sounded perfect. I moved back to Big Pine Key and I love it here.” 

Mrs. Shannon Duffy, a new teacher in Key West, looks forward to continuing her career here and meeting and teaching new students who wish to take her class.

Brett Fink is a new teacher at KWHS teaching U.S History and U.S History Honors. Fink came down to teach Social Studies, while his wife, Keri Fink, decided to teach Science. Fink has been teaching and coaching for 19 years, just recently traveling down to Key West looking to retire. Fink started coaching basketball at USF, coming from Viara HS, Brevard County, and Cocoa Beach. Needless to say, Fink has been all over the place. Fink happens to come from a family line of teaching, something he had never considered doing in the first place. He’s looking forward to getting to know his students and the area for this school year. 

Look out in issue two for the continuation of our new teachers and staff members at Key West High School.

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