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New grading system and familiar faces as Salem students head back to school

Teacher of the Year talks about lessons learned during her time at West Salem

SALEM, Va. – Students in the City of Salem are heading back to the classroom for their first day of the new school year. From an upgraded grading system to new teachers in the classroom, this year is bringing changes to the district.

One of the biggest changes is the grading system update for middle and high school students. The new grading guidelines mean teachers can give students a grade based on what they know or how they've grown throughout the year, instead of averaging all of the projects, quizzes and tests for their final grade.

An A will mean the students are able to consistently demonstrate that they know and understand the content. Bs mean some improvement still needs to be made. Cs mean students need more practice and instruction.

It's a shift many teachers have been easing into over the past few years.

This new school year will also bring new faces to the district. In all, there are 24 new teachers who will become a part of the elementary, middle and high school communities.

There are also many familiar faces returning to the classrooms as well, like the Salem Division Teacher of the Year for 2017, Karey Henzey.

Henzey has been working with special education students in Salem for more than a decade. She says she's ready to get back into the classroom and kick off a new year.

"Just to show them that anything is possible," she says. "Through hard work, you can achieve your goals. That's what I want for all students, not just students with disabilities, but all students."

Teaching special education students is a job Henzey says she's known she wanted to do since she was just seven years old. She says it all started when she began spending time with her babysitter's daughter, who had significant disabilities. Even at that young age, Henzey says she was drawn to the girl and knew she eventually wanted to work with other kids just like her.

"I just love working with students and watching them through that learning process. Watching them grow as learners throughout the year, in learning and gaining new skills and in gaining that confidence in their skills," says Henzey.

Henzey says she uses several strategies to help her special education students learn and grow. From small group work to focusing on specific skills and helping their teachers with in-class strategies as well, she says the best method really depends on the student.

Her goal for this school year and every year is to get her students back up to grade level, so they can become more independent and grow into fully functioning adults.