School starts back up Monday for many including Fresno Unified School District.
And one teacher wants to kick off the school year with a special but simple message for her students. For her co-workers, too.
“I am not a student,” said Stephanie Nechay, a seventh-grade teacher at Scandinavian Middle School.
The 5-foot-3 science teacher said she often was mistaken as a student last year during her first year teaching full-time.
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One time, a counselor stretched out her arm and hugged Nechay to prevent her from going down a hallway that had been closed off to students — only to realize she was a teacher.
To clear up any confusion in her second year, Nechay, 23, plans to wear a custom T-shirt on the first day of school.
On the front, it says “Not A Student.” On the back, the black shirt says “Ms. Nechay.”
“I’ve had a lot of problems being confused as a student,” Nechay said with a chuckle. “Parents overlook me. They don’t take me serious. I’ve had kids ask me, ‘Where did you transfer from?’ Some teachers were surprised I had the keys to a classroom.
“I mean, I get it. I look young. I’m not that tall. I’m closer in age to the students than some of the adults on campus. But I’m a teacher. I promise you that I’m a teacher.”
Nechay, in fact, has a master’s degree from Fresno State and has career aspirations of getting into school administration.
She’s currently the department chair for sciences, supervisor of the science club and a seventh-grade girls basketball coach.
“I think one of the challenges that I had to overcome during my first year was this perception that, because people think I look like a student, they think I’m trying to be their buddy, buddy instead of their teacher,” Nechay said. “That’s not the case.
“Don’t get me wrong. I adore my students But I know when to lay the hammer down.”
Though the “Not A Student” T-shirt (which was made by a friend) might help Nechay separate herself from blending in with the Scandinavian student body of 11- to 14-year-olds, Nechay puts on the shirt mostly for fun.
She already wore it Friday during seventh-grade orientation. She also plans to wear the shirt on field trips.
And while it might be unclear if it’s students or teachers who are more embarrassed when mistaking Nechay as a student, it’s certainly not Nechay.
She’s dealt with the mix-ups since she began substitute teaching a few years ago.
“Honestly, part of me thinks the joke is kind of old,” Nechay said. “It can bother me sometimes, because I just want to be taken seriously and prove myself as a teacher.
“I try to be a good sport, though, and laugh it off. It does make a lot of people laugh when they find out. I like seeing people smile.”