On Friday, more than 325 new teachers filled with dreams and more than a few worries sat in the auditorium of Osbourn Park High School to be welcomed to Prince William County.
Some of them had been there before.
Not necessarily at Osbourn Park, but at other schools in the county. Tyler Elementary School. Woodbridge Senior High School. Saunders Middle School. Hylton High School.
Some of those 325 new teachers went to school in Prince William and are now back where they started, this time on the other side.
They were thrilled. But they also admit that, yes, it's a bit strange.
"It didn't really hit me until I went into the classroom and thought, 'These are my things. This is my desk. This is my overhead [projector],' " said Rachel Wood, who attended Tyler Elementary, Marsteller Middle and Stonewall Jackson Senior High, where she graduated in 1994.
Wood, 23, graduated from Longwood College and will be teaching math and science to second-graders in Henderson Elementary School's foreign language immersion program.
As a teacher certified in Spanish, Wood got nibbles from several Northern Virginia school districts, including Manassas, Manassas Park and Loudoun County.
"They wanted me teaching high school, but I wanted to stay with elementary school. That was my first love," Wood said.
A Stonewall Jackson classmate of Wood's, Monica Schultz, will teach eighth-grade language arts at Beville Middle School in Dale City. Schultz, 22, also attended Tyler Elementary and Stonewall Middle School.
Schultz wasn't always so sure she wanted to become a teacher. But once Schultz, an English major at James Madison University, set her mind on it, she didn't consider other school districts.
"I didn't even apply anywhere else. I just really had a good experience in this school system," Schultz said.
Three teachers guided her to her career path: Bill and Phyllis Ponn at Stonewall Middle (who have since retired), and Jane Barth, who still teaches English and history at Stonewall Jackson.
"They instilled the love of English in me," Schultz said.
For Schultz, it's starting to sink in that by Sept. 7, she will be standing in front of a group of eighth-graders, trying to instill in them a love of English.
"I have so much to do," said Schultz, who went to see her classroom for the first time after the orientation program. "Thank goodness there's another week."
Malaika Washington, 24, attended King Elementary, Saunders Middle and Hylton High, where she graduated in 1993. She will teach students with emotional disturbances at Beville Middle School.
"I had always planned on coming back," said Washington, who attended Virginia Commonwealth University. "I'm familiar with the community, and I wanted to give back to the kids who live in the community."
Being back in Prince William is coming home, Washington said. "It makes me feel more comfortable," she said.
But the new-teacher jitters were still there, in a small way, especially as the orientation ground on for four hours.
"It's kind of confusing, some of it, but I don't feel overwhelmed. Not yet, anyway," she said.
CAPTION: Debbie Dean, left, of school personnel, helps Laura Nichols at an orientation for new teachers. Nichols will teach at McAuliffe Elementary School.
CAPTION: Rachel Wood, a graduate of county schools, is returning as a teacher.