Between Odessa and Permian high schools there are 38 teachers without a classroom, also called floaters.
Victoria Smith, who teaches English and coaches volleyball at OHS, and Sarah Garlington, a Dollars and Sense Teacher at Permian, are two of them.
Both schools have about 4,000 students each. Proponents of a May bond election say passing the two parts of the bond will ease overcrowding at the high schools.
Ector County ISD has called a $398,255,000 bond issue for May 7.
Proposition A for $215,255,000 would include maintenance and life-cycle repairs/replacement for school district buildings ($130,255,000); construction of a new Career & Technical Education (CTE) Center ($70 million); classroom technology upgrades ($15 million).
Proposition B for $183,000,000 includes a new comprehensive high school with capacity for 2,500-2,800 students at Yukon and Faudree roads.
Smith has been with Ector County ISD for seven years and Garlington, a career and technical education teacher, is in her fourth year.
When she signed on, Smith had no idea she wouldn’t have a classroom after seven years, but the reality is, she floats.
Smith teaches four different classes in three different locations. She said having a classroom would be awesome. “It would be amazing,” she said. Smith has rooms assigned to her based on when teachers have their conference or lunch period. She has four places that are assigned to her. “… For example, this year I have an English II teacher, Mr. Mullins. He has lunch and conference back to back, so I get to teach my fourth and fifth period in that same room. While he’s gone, I get to go in there,” Smith said.
Over the years, she has come up with ways to make her life a little smoother like having things on a strap so she can carry her gear easier. “A couple years, I had a whiteboard attached to my cart, like Velcro to cart, so I roll it in. There’s the do now, there’s the objective. There’s everything because I don’t have time to go into somebody’s classroom and erase their stuff, write my stuff. You have to be ready, right then and there,” Smith said. Between the back seat of her car and her cart, that is Smith’s classroom. She keeps assignments, folders, composition books for her students and other items on the cart.
“I try to be as minimalist as possible. With having Chromebooks, that has helped; not having so much paper. I think I’m kind of like an expert, finding ways to make my life easier and still be available for my kids as quickly as I possibly can,” Smith said.
She added that she has five minutes between classes. “I’m walking in with my kids, which is not typical for somebody who has a classroom. I have to wait for the teacher before me to get finished wrapping up their things, their kids get out. And then me and my kids go in together. So that’s another thing that is different for me. I don’t have everything on the board as the students are entering. They know, okay, we’re going to have to wait just a second; wait for Coach Smith to get everything going,” Smith said.
“I have a system that makes it like maybe one to two minutes of extra time that I need. A couple of months ago, we got what they call docking stations, which has been great. So now, I have everything already open on my laptop; everything that I need for the day. So when I go into my room, I will attach it to the docking station and I can immediately put it on the board instead of having to log into the computer, get everything open that I need, which takes another five minutes so the docking stations have been a serious help,” she added. Not having a classroom is the norm for Smith and she doesn’t complain about it. “It’s not anything that I can’t handle,” she said.
But just the thought that every single teacher on campus could have their own spot is great.
“… If I have tutoring, I have to find a place for it. My kids don’t know, oh, this is Coach Smith’s room. She doesn’t have one, so we have to make an appointment prior to, so I just think that possibility is something great not just for the teachers who float, but the kids who have those teachers in class,” Smith said. A native Odessan, Smith went to Midland College and then Tennessee Temple in Chattanooga. She majored in English language arts and minored in theology.
A perk to being a floater is that she doesn’t have to unplug before long school breaks.
“But I don’t have a class, therefore, I don’t put things on the walls for my kids — anchor charts, posters that’ll help them remember things. I could be in a math class, so I’m not gonna put English stuff all over the math class,” Smith said. Sometimes the students get confused. “A lot of times if another teacher has their ‘do now’ (and) sometimes one of my kids will start doing it. And I’m like, that’s not for us; that’s not for us. Hold on. I’m going to put it up. After a while, they get it and they get used to where my things are and where other people’s things are. But yeah, sometimes they’ll get confused. Or maybe they’ll pick up the paper that’s on the desk that I haven’t put my paper there yet. But that’s just part of it,” Smith said.
She added that sometimes students help her and the other teachers are accommodating. Despite the struggles, Smith said it hasn’t turned her away from teaching.
“I think this is what I love to do, so my outlook is you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do. You have to serve the kids that you have and if that means you’re going to three different classrooms, then you’re going through different classrooms. The teachers that you float into their rooms, I’ve never had a teacher who was not accommodating. …,” Smith added.
“So no, I don’t think it deters me from teaching. It’s just another obstacle that you’ve got to get through. I mean, that’s what teaching is, making things work.”
Garlington is in her fourth year of teaching at Permian. Her course is Dollars and Sense, a financial education class that uses Dave Ramsey’s curriculum.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences education from Texas Tech.
She has new students every semester because her class lasts just one semester.
In her fourth year of teaching, she is working part time this year and does not have a fixed classroom. But she has had a classroom before.
“My first year, I was in one classroom and then the last two years I believe, which were COVID years, so those were a little bit different. But I think I was in two different classrooms for those, as well,” Garlington said.
Now she works off her cart.
“I have everything I need, and I just wheel it from this room to the next,” Garlington said.
She added that she loves what she teaches. It is an elective.
“I think it’s so valuable and such a great tool that students need once they graduate …,” Garlington said. Not having a classroom is hard.
“It is a challenge some days just because once that period is over, I have to transition out so that another teacher and her students can come in so it does make it difficult when I need to make phone calls, or when I just need to sit down and grade. That does become a struggle sometimes. But of course there’s other places that I just have to pack up all my stuff and relocate to an office or another room. But a pro of it is that I do get to mingle with other teachers, sharing their rooms and getting to know them,” she said.
The room she was in Friday did not have computers. The other room she uses is a computer lab.
“That’s a struggle, too, because in here, the kids have to use their Chromebooks and we have to utilize outlets and be able to get them to charge, plugged in and ready to go. Whereas in the other room, they can just walk in, sign in on the desktops and they’re good. So it’s a little bit different of an environment from this room versus the other rooms,” Garlington said.
At the beginning of the year, a master schedule is made up and the department heads work alongside with principals to set a schedule to figure out who can be in what rooms and what kind of rooms work for everyone.
“For example, there’s a history teacher that floats in here third period after me, so this is all her stuff in here. She comes in third period, which I know … makes it a little bit more difficult on her because she now has lunch and conference first and second, so it makes it a longer day for her as well,” Garlington said.
As with Smith, students sometimes get confused about where to find Garlington.
“… I have tutorials in the morning in this classroom and so if they’re in my other periods, I have to be sure and tell them to go to my other classroom; not the classroom that we’re in right now. Just because I can’t be two places at once in the morning. So I always have them in here because this is where I start out in the morning. So yes, there has been some confusion on that. …,” Garlington said.
She said her department head got the cart for her and floating teachers have the option of a longer desk that rolls. Garlington said it would be very nice to have her own classroom, have her own space and not have to worry about being in someone else’s space. There are also little things like needing to use devices at the same time as another teacher.
“It’s hard when two teachers are in one area trying to utilize one device, or one phone, or one printer …,” Garlington said.
Her largest class is 29 students and her smallest is 25.
“… It’s a CTE course, a career technical education course, so it’s an elective. It’s not required, but often kids want to take it, or their parents encouraged them to take it because it is such a great tool. Like I said, once they graduate, it’s things that they need to know for life. I do have freshmen through seniors in this class, and we cover everything from basic budgeting and saving all the way up to insurance and retirement and investing. We do cover a lot in one semester. … It’s very useful things that they need to know for the rest of their life …,” she noted.
Holt Herrington, who teaches business information management is also a CTE instructor. He has been at PHS for four years.
“I don’t really have a problem with floating because I have such a good floater coming in my room, but I know it’s hard on them because they don’t have all of their supplies (and) equipment. They have their little rolling cart and then some of them could go from here to there and down the stairs and have to float down to another room, so I know it’s a lot of trouble for them,” Herrington said.
He added that when he has his conference and lunch periods he can work in his room, but the floaters cannot.
He said he thinks it would be good if ECISD had another high school.
“This high school is just overloaded with students; the parking lot; the hallways. I feel like it’s almost impossible to make it to a classroom in five minutes, because the hallways are so packed …,” Herrington said.
- Early voting: April 25 through May 3 at the Ector County Courthouse Annex, 1010 E. Eighth St.
- Election Day: May 7.