As classes resume Monday in the Chandler Unified School District, some teachers may feel they've won the lottery -- because they landed jobs.
First, the cuts came. Then the pink slips rolled out, along with demonstrations at the Capitol.
Last spring, as teachers were winding down their time with students and student teachers were pumping up their resumes and interview skills, the outlook for employment in East Valley school districts was bleak, if not downright depressing.
Hundreds of employed teachers were told they would not have jobs for the following year, and graduating students preparing to enter the work force were standing in the wings.
The only bright spot seemed to be the Chandler Unified School District, which needed more teachers rather than fewer in anticipation of up to 1,000 new students.
So when job applications started rolling in, the final count was 3,000, about 1,000 more than previous years.
"With all the uncertainty, plus it was pretty well known we were about the only ones hiring, we definitely had more," district spokesman Terry Locke said.
In the end about 130 new teachers were hired and will start teaching Monday in the Chandler district. Between 45 and 50 of them are in new positions created to help the district with growth, while others are filling positions vacated by retirements and resignations, Locke said.
Many of the teachers - about 60 percent, Locke said - have experience in the classroom while 40 percent are new to the profession.
Amanda Tanner, a recent graduate of Arizona State University, is one of the new hires. She completed her student teaching last spring at Chandler's Tarwater Elementary School. She graduated on May 15 with a degree in elementary education.
The following Friday she was offered a position at Tarwater to teach third grade.
"I did panic," she said about the job search. "It was constant nervousness. Everything I wanted to do, everything I went to school for" was tied into the effort.
The panic is understandable. In April, several East Valley school districts facing a grim financial outlook issued hundreds of "reduction-in-force" notices to teachers, letting them know they had no guarantee of employment for the 2009-10 school year.
Since then, with temporary budgets in hand from the state, federal stimulus dollars coming in, and a better handle on employee attrition, districts have hired back most of the teachers who got notices.
With all that going on in the teaching ranks, Tanner decided not to narrow her job-search focus. She applied all over the East Valley, including Kyrene, Gilbert and Mesa. But she really wanted to stay in Chandler.
"Both of my parents are teachers, and they both teach in schools in the Chandler school district still. And I have an aunt and uncle in the district," Tanner said. "It's a family business, Chandler schools."
In the end, while many classmates were left looking for jobs, Tanner got two offers, including the one she wanted.
"After fearing this whole time for a job, I had two at once," she said.
So last week she cleaned her classroom and set up bulletin boards and book stations in her new home at Tarwater. She met with the rest of the third-grade team, prepared curriculum, and started the countdown to Monday's opening day.
"I'm excited. I love Tarwater. I love this school. It's a very supportive community, very supportive parents," Tanner said. "It's a great staff. I know that if I'm lost at all I have so many people behind me supporting me and offering help."
Stephanie Shuey was one of the teachers to get a reduction-in-force notice.
Last school year, Shuey was a part-time special education teacher in the Kyrene Elementary School District. When she heard the district was going to issue notices, she started a job search.
With part-time positions being eliminated in several districts, Shuey sought a full-time position in the Chandler district so she could be on the same schedule as her daughter.
"It wasn't my intention to go back full time, but I kind of realized I wasn't going to get a part-time position now," Shuey said. "Pretty much all of the part-timers are gone."
Shuey got a job at Chandler's Haley Elementary School.
"I was very relieved. I was very happy to know I still had a job. It was a little frightening," she said.
Kyrene did come around and offer Shuey a contract, but she had already committed to Chandler.
In the middle of July, the 12-year veteran teacher - she's worked in both special and regular education - went through new-teacher training in Chandler.
Last week, the welcome continued.
"We're in lots of meetings, setting our classrooms up and preparing for the kiddos to come," Shuey said.