First year teachers Wallace and Plunkett exceed expectations


Staff Photo by Tristan Lempka

Plunkett teaches her third period a creative writing assignment. Plunkett is a special education teacher who strives for student success.

Tristan Lempka, Staff Writer

Being a first-year teacher can lead to many different experiences, some are exciting while others can be more difficult but Carolyn Plunkett and Selena Wallace stood out to staff at Wakefield High School. They were honored by receiving the first teacher award in 2022. The teachers of Wakefield are well prepared by the mentor committee, an organization within the school community whose job it is to help guide the younger teachers get their teaching careers started. 

The mentor committee serves a variety of roles for the faculty. Laura Stiles is the leader of the committee and has been a science teacher at Wakefield for over twenty years.

“My primary role is a mentor coordinator,” Stiles said. “I am the in-building person who helps with the mentor teachers and [first year] teachers to ensure that they are getting the support they need for instruction, discipline, classroom management, etcetera.” 

Stiles has recently found that a lot of new teachers come into the profession in an unconventional way. But, these new teachers tend to have more life experiences.

“Lately, we have had teachers coming to us through an alternate route,” Stiles said. “They went to college, got a degree, but they didn’t go to college for teaching. So, they don’t have a student teaching background.”

I wanted to make a difference, a big impact in others lives and this was by far the best fit.”

— Plunkett

Plunkett, a ninth through twelfth special education teacher, was one of the winners of WHS’s first-year teacher award. Originally, she wasn’t a teacher.

“I stayed at home with my two children before teaching,” Plunkett said.  “I attempted to work at State Employees’ Credit Union with the promises of upward movement and pay, but I was very unhappy not being around children.”

Plunkett was then pulled in a different direction after stepping her foot into the education system. Although, the process to get there wasn’t easy.

“I’ve had experience with lower grades, upper grades and initially desired to teach social studies,” Plunkett said.  “Even after going through the proper schooling to teach social studies, it was very difficult to get an interview, much less a job.  I taught in a Charter School with younger students, but I felt like I could be my more authentic self with high school-aged students and reach them in a more holistic capacity.”

The second new teacher to win this award  was Selena Wallace, a food and nutrition teacher who also did not start on a conventional route to education.

“I originally went to college to be in healthcare, I wanted to be a registered dietitian,” Wallace said. “I fell in love with the community aspect of nutrition, more so than the clinical side of it.”

Through schooling, Wallace learned about preventable diseases of the body through poor nutrition and realized she could potentially prevent these diseases.

Ms. Wallace is the food and nutrition teacher. Wallace assists a student with their work. (Staff Photo by Tristan Lempka)

“We traced it back to where it all began, which is childhood. Part of my passion was preventative care all along,” Wallace said. “So, I thought about how I could combine preventative care and community, and that was to target those that are getting ready to travel into adulthood.”

Both Plunkett and Wallace said that they felt a pull towards teaching and plan on staying at Wakefield for at least a few years. All teachers have a specific reason as to why they began teaching, but Plunkett’s is universal. 

“The desire to advocate for students and their families that may not have had equitable access to education [is the reason I began teaching],” Plunkett said. “I wanted to make a difference, a big impact in others lives and this was by far the best fit.”