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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Paula TredwayDanielle Wood and Linda Stoaks are California Middle School’s newest reading teachers. The pair was hired partially to help the school meet a need for reading teachers but also to help ease class loads and make social distancing easier and safer for everyone amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Moniteau County R-1 School District hired two new reading teachers at California Middle School, Linda Stoaks for sixth grade and Danielle Wood for seventh grade, for the new semester to help with combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The district decided to hire additional teachers to lessen class sizes and make it easier for students to social distance, as it continues navigating the effects of COVID-19 in the community.

Stoaks currently lives in Jefferson City, where she is finishing up her degree in English at Lincoln University. She said she has a particular passion for working with young people.

"I always had a connection with children from a young age," Stoaks said. "My mom owned a day care for the longest time, so I would help her and once I was old enough I ended up volunteering at a day care. There is something about children. I just love helping them and seeing them grow and seeing that light in their eyes when they realize that they figured something out."

Stoaks said she was excited to see a smaller town like California was hiring. She said she prefers a small-town atmosphere where the principal, teachers and students know each other, making it easier to work with each individual.

Stoaks said she tries to stick to an exploring, finding things out on your own and project-based type of teaching method. Right now, however, classes are playing catch-up on notes, but Stoaks said she and her students are excited to see where the year goes.

"I'm excited to be here," Stoaks said. "It's my first semester teaching, I'm just excited to learn and figure out how everything works because it's my first time having my own classroom, and of course if the parents need to contact me, they can I'm not distant."

Wood graduated from Central Methodist University in November and is currently pursuing a Master's degree through Missouri State University. She is originally from the Eldon area, where she was a paraprofessional at the School of Osage. Wood has been in education for the last five years. She started off as a substitute and worked her way to a paraprofessional role, before being hired by California.

Wood said she holds her experience with an influential teacher in her life close when it comes to what kind of teacher she would like to be.

"The reason I went into teaching was because of my fourth grade teacher, who went above and beyond for me inside and outside of school," Wood said. "So I wanted to be that person for another student."

When it comes to her teaching style, Wood said she is very hands-on and doesn't like to lecture her students too much. She tells them what they'll be doing and off they go, but she does constantly walk around the room in case any student needs help.

Coming on board in the middle of the school year has been a little chaotic, both new teachers said, but everyone has been doing their best to adjust and move forward. CMS staff members have been very welcoming to the two new teachers and the students have been slightly confused but mostly excited.

Neither Stoaks or Woods were too concerned about starting in the middle of the school year with the pandemic still ongoing. They have had experience in a school setting due to previous work or field experience, so they said they knew what to expect and what had to be done to make sure the students could continue their education.

"I was kind of nervous, but when each of the classes would come in, I told them, 'I'm asking you all two things and you can expect those two things back from me be flexible and be patient,'" Wood said. "It's not very often a teacher comes in midway through the year and has a new class and the students have a new teacher, so we're going to be learning this new thing as we go."

Both teachers said they plan to do their best to meet the needs of their new students, get them in a routine and prepare them for their futures.

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