By Danielle Church
Killeen Daily Herald

About 230 newly hired teachers packed the Killeen Civic and Conference Center on Monday morning as part of a new teacher induction event to begin the 2011-12 school year.

The hiring of teachers comes shortly after KISD officials estimate an $8 million reduction in the district’s budget for next year.

Earlier this spring, the district eliminated more than 150 professional positions, including teachers. KISD was awarded a $6.2 million Education Jobs Act Fund in May and called for the rehiring of over 70 special education positions as well as the hiring of 53 elementary teachers that would have previously been eliminated.

Beginning Monday, the newly hired teachers will participate in a week of professional development designed specifically for teachers new to the district.

“All teachers that are new to the district have to participate,” said KISD spokeswoman Leslie Gilmore.

KISD Superintendent Robert Muller addressed the new teachers during the induction ceremony and welcomed them into the district.

“As we sit here this morning, it’s about to begin,” Muller said. “As teachers, I encourage you to open up the world to these students. … You can make a difference. … I encourage you to smile and enjoy the year you’re about to embark upon.”

He also encouraged the teachers to look across their tables at the conference center and get to know the people they will be working with in the upcoming year.

Tammy Thornhill, a KISD graduate, is a new teacher and said she is excited to be teaching fourth grade at Clifton Park Elementary School this year.

“(This is) what I’m meant to do,” she said. “I believe it’s about advocating by educating.”

She said one of her biggest expectations for the year will be to understand what it’s like to be a brand-new teacher and to learn from it.

“I’m going to be learning from my students as much as they are (from) me,” she said.

While Thornhill grew up in the district, others like 25-year-old Andrew Hurtado have become acquainted with KISD only recently.

Hurtado said he moved to the Killeen area from Waco and will be teaching special education at Ellison High School during the new school year.

His decision to become a teacher was not unlike that of many.

“Throughout my time in school, I’ve had a lot of teachers impact me, and I wanted to give back,” he said.

He said he’s ready to get into the classroom and “get my hands dirty, and be hands on.”

“I hope to continue to grow all year long,” he added.

The first day back to school for students is Aug. 22.