Cody Phillips doesn’t buy into the notion that Las Vegas is a lost cause when it comes to education. The Winnemucca native is a product of schools all over the state, including UNLV (where he got his bachelor’s in journalism) and Sierra Nevada College (where he got his English teaching qualification), and will begin his first full-time teaching job on August 25—at two-star Del Sol High School.
What’s your mind-set going into the school year? I think the mind-set for any first-year teacher is to survive, but I also want to thrive. I definitely want to come out of the gate strong, and I want to help the students as much as I can. Veteran teachers say that the first year is the toughest, and that all you have to do is survive. But I’m hoping to do more than that.
Any expectations going into the process? I know it’s not going to be easy, but it will definitely be rewarding. I met the principal and some of the staff face to face for the first time recently, and I have a pretty good vibe from everybody. Everyone seems to be pretty excited to get things going.
Any fears? Oh gosh, so many! (laughs) I’m probably going to be more nervous on the first day than the students. You know, just a fear that I will get up there and I will forget everything. I also just have a fear that the district is sort of a mess at times, and sometimes I fear that will affect my ability to do my job ... They have a lot of things that need to be fixed. But everyone involved in this, I think, has the best intentions. I just have to push [those fears] out of my mind. There’s only so much I can do.
Did it intimidate you at all knowing your first full-time teaching job was at a two-star school, designated as needing improvement? Not really, but’s that probably because I did student teaching there two years ago. My experience here, brief as it was, was pretty good. What was more intimidating than anything was that the whole English department is completely new this year. But we have a new principal this year, and he’s hoping to get us up to a five-star school.
Las Vegas schools are clearly in need of improvement overall. How do you think we can go about making the system better? Having the teacher that really honestly cares, and that they get support from the administration and the district. As long as you have those two things, you can overcome a lot.