DONNA CRISWELL VAN HYNING
5421 43rd Avenue North
St. Petersburg, Florida 33709
NewStart High School
2461 McMullen Booth Rd., Bldg. B
Clearwater, FL 33759
I am an ESE teacher at a charter school for dropout prevention. We teach students ages 16-21, who gave up in traditional high schools. These students have decided they want to earn their diplomas. NewStart is part of the Pinellas school district, and we have a parent company, so we must satisfy two contracts. We have armed guards who wand students, and bags/purses must be opened and looked into. Occasionally drugs and/or paraphernalia are found. We do have five gang members that we are aware of, so we are always on alert. I teach/tutor with another teacher in an intervention lab, with some of the most difficult of our students. They work on computers, taking courses that are state approved for graduation. Part of the day, I work in the office writing Individual Education Plans (IEPs), conducting IEP meetings, and staying in compliance with federal regulations. It’s a great teaching position, because we are able to help teenagers who have many problems and challenges. Best of all, I don’t have any English lesson plans anymore! I taught English in public and private schools, was an Education Director at Sylvan Learning Center, and taught at a level 2 DJJ facility. I had a fifteen-year interim career along the way, as a hospital human resources and public relations director in Jacksonville and Maine.
I have one daughter, Cris, and four stepchildren. I have nine grandchildren. My stepchildren live in Jacksonville, Ventura, CA, Tampa, and Herndon, VA. My daughter lives just ten minutes from me. She has two adopted children from China. Andie is a beautiful, happy 7-year-old girl. Alan, who is 5, has Albinism, and he is our “cool dude” with the cap and sunglasses to protect his skin and eyes. He’s a handsome boy. Cris and her husband “chose” him from pictures of special needs children provided by the adoption agency. He wasn’t adopted until he was 3, and it has been fascinating to watch his amazing progress. I had the joy of traveling to China for a 16-day trip to be there for his adoption, and to see the major sights in China, as well as the everyday life of the Chinese people as shown through the eyes of the Chinese American adoption agency tour guide. I am very fortunate to have the great family I have, and I have much support from family and friends.