Educator who moved from Philippines is among 110 new Decatur teachers

Jul. 29—Susan Batchelder probably moved farther to begin a new job with Decatur City Schools than any of the more than 100 teachers the system has added for this school year.

She spent the past three years teaching English in the Philippines, more than 8,500 miles away. She taught previously in Decatur and is returning to teach English as a second language (ESL) at Banks-Caddell Elementary School. She hopes to continue having an impact on children.

"I want to be a friendly face at school, something that makes school have a strong personal connection to them," she said. "When I taught ESL at Austinville (Elementary) before leaving Decatur, it was my favorite job I've ever had. So, I'm looking forward to getting back into a similar role at a different school."

Batchelder and other teachers joining Decatur City Schools were recognized Thursday during a new teacher breakfast sponsored by the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber of Commerce held a at Decatur First Baptist. Each principal in the system introduced his or her new staff.

Yvette Evans, deputy superintendent of instruction and personnel for Decatur City Schools, said there are 110 new teachers starting this year. She said there are 640 teachers who have been in the system at least a year, for a total of 750 teachers.

Batchelder, 41, is originally from Montgomery. She double majored in elementary education and Spanish at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi.

Batchelder met her husband, Aaron Batchelder, in Mexico City at an International Baccalaureate school. When they decided to move back to the U.S. 14 years ago, Decatur had an IB program, she said.

"That's what put Decatur on our radar, but other than that we didn't really have any connections to Decatur. We came to a job fair, we got jobs, and we said, 'I guess we're moving to Decatur,'" Susan Batchelder said.

For 11 years Batchelder taught both Spanish at Benjamin Davis Elementary School and ESL at Austinville Elementary.

"My husband and I, before coming to Decatur the first time, we met in Mexico teaching at an international school," Batchelder said. "We met that way, then we came to the states, got married, had kids, then we got the itch again and decided to hit the road again."

Three years ago, Batchelder, her husband and their two children who are now 5 and 7, moved to the Philippines, where they both taught at an international school. Batchelder said the Philippines, especially international schools, were severely impacted by COVID.

"In the three years we were in the Philippines, two of those years were 100% online. It was OK as teachers, not great, but OK. It was difficult on our kids," Batchelder said. "Once we got back in school, it was great."

Batchelder said overall the time in the Philippines was a great experience for her family.

"Coming home, our kids are excited about it, but we also left what ended up being a great situation," she said.

Her husband will be teaching fifth grade science this year at Priceville Junior High in the Morgan County Schools system.

Another teacher new to the Decatur system but not to teaching is Lauren Barton, 27. She just moved from Edmond, Oklahoma, and will teach sixth grade reading at Austin Middle School. For four and a half years, she was a counselor and teacher in Oklahoma. Barton received her degree in secondary education from Oklahoma State University.

Barton's father had moved to the Tennessee Valley and two years ago while visiting him, she met her now-boyfriend who lives in Madison. In May, without a job lined up, Barton decided to relocate to the area to be closer to her father and boyfriend.

"I just took a stab in the dark. I mean, I had my degree in education, so I figured I could find a job. But I didn't have anything lined up, I just chose to move," she said.

Barton completed her move here a month ago. She said she likes the area and plans to stay. Barton hopes to affect students in Decatur like she did in Oklahoma.

"Knowing that my students will always remember me and hopefully how positive I was and inclusive in the nurturing environment, I do hope to have a lasting impact on my students," she said. "And I'm hoping to do the same here."

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