CLAREMONT — Monday afternoon Elyse Crossman, executive director of the Claremont Chamber of Commerce busily assembled welcome bags for 40 new teachers in the Claremont School District this year, who have their first day of orientation today, Tuesday, Aug. 19.
“Our goal is to welcome the new teachers to the Claremont community,” Crossman said. “This is a whole community welcome. It’s not just the Chamber members, but other businesses and groups.”
This is Crossman’s fourth year of creating welcome bags for new Claremont teachers, as part of the Chamber’s mission to help promote and support local economic growth.
Many of these teachers are unfamiliar with the Claremont community, either having moved here for the position or commuting from another town, Crossman said. The welcome bags contain a short city history, informational brochures from local non-profits, businesses and public groups; coupons and gift cards from local restaurants; and plenty of “swag,” including coffee cup, water bottle, earphones, hand sanitizer and enough pens and stationary to put one classroom desk drawer to work.
“Claremont may be a city, but in reality we’re a small community,” Crossman said. “Once you’re acclimated here you can appreciate the friendly faces you recognize in the street, but if you are new Claremont can feel intimidating. It’s hard here to feel not one of the group.”
Through the gesture of small gifts and resources to help new teachers familiarize themselves with local resources and establishments, Crossman said she aims for the new employees to feel a part of the community.
“The contributions to the welcome bags have grown every year,” Crossman said.
Crossman aims to attract new teachers to stay in Claremont long term, grow invested in the community or at least spend more time in Claremont to shop and dine.
According to New Hampshire economic development group Work Live Play, about 20% of millenials in New Hampshire feel that they don’t have a friend in the state. The ability to be a welcoming community is an opportunity to connect with people under the age of 40 who don’t currently feel a tie to a community.
Using an example of a gift card from Tremont Pizza, Elyse said that the card might spur the teacher to invite a colleague to lunch, where the two might forge a connection, or the teacher might venture to the new business and make another connection.
“If the effort builds toward teachers wanting to stay in Claremont, then we’ve done our job,” Crossman said.
Forty new teachers is within the range of 30-40 bags that Crossman has made in past years. While some might consider the number alarmingly high, Crossman does not believe that the reality is that drastic.
“Some of those may be replacing retiring teachers,” Crossman said. “Some positions may have previously been one positon but were divided into smaller positions. Some may be new positions in special education programs or the preschool.”
Superintendent Michael Tempesta said Claremont Middle School recently restored two teaching positions for science and social studies. Tempesta has said that he plans to hire a total of six additional middle school teachers to make science and social studies full-year courses for grades six-through eight by 2021.