CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- New teachers were reminded Friday of the important role they will play during a breakfast sponsored by the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber.

The breakfast held at the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on the University of Northern Iowa campus welcomed the 27 new teachers who will be joining Cedar Falls Community Schools when classes start Wednesday. UNI was another major sponsor of the event.

"We're recognizing you because teachers have the most important job in the Cedar Valley," said Tom Penaluna of the CBE Companies and chairman of the Alliance & Chamber board. "You are the main source of knowledge and value to our children outside of their parents."

Melissa Reade, director of the Alliance & Chamber's Leader Valley initiative, introduced attendees to 10 current and former Southdale and North Cedar elementary school students who have been involved in the Leader in Me program. She asked the new teachers to "help our young people see the leader in themselves. This is not easy work, but it is the right work."

Holmes Junior High student Mallorie Sckerl, who has been trained as a facilitator for the Leader in Me program, told the new teachers they are all leaders because "someone at some point in your life" empowered them with responsibility. "The purpose of a leader is to inspire and empower people to become leaders," she said.

Sckerl cautioned that their students will fail them. But she encouraged the teachers to not give up on their charges.

"Stick with it, stick with us, trust us to keep trying," she said, and eventually the students will get it right.

Dan Conrad, Cedar Falls' director of secondary education, thanked the community for its support of the schools and praised the district's staff. "I'm amazed at the quality of teachers and administrators we've been able to attract," he said.

The new teachers also received encouragement from representatives of the Cedar Valley's higher education institutions.

"I encourage you to engage and collaborate," said UNI President William Ruud, noting the value of their experience.

Ruud invited the teachers to use the university's resources "regardless of where you got your education" --- after noting he saw some license plates of graduates from other colleges in the parking lot. He also told the teachers to "be comfortable in seeking your advanced degree from the University of Northern Iowa."

Jane Bradley, Hawkeye Community College's vice president of academic affairs, acknowledged the responsibility the new teachers face. Hawkeye was another sponsor of the event.

"As educators, we know that we have shared responsibility for the success of all our students," she said. "I just want to tell you thank you for all you do and all you're going to do as a teacher."

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Waterloo Schools / HCC Reporter

Education reporter for the Courier

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