ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - Albemarle County Public Schools (ACPS) is preparing 170 new teachers for the upcoming school year. To ensure they're prepared for their first day on the job, the county is holding a new teacher academy at Jack Jouett Middle School.

Through team building activities, like dancing, these new ACPS teachers are getting to know their colleagues and learning about the county's methods.

"I really like what the county is doing as far as students pursuing their individual interests. Really helping kids explore," said James O'Leary.

O'Leary was once a student in Albemarle County, and is now returning to teach social studies and science in Jack Jouett Middle School's immersion program.

"I definitely want to kind of pick the brains of some of the other educators that we have here, particularly with science because that's not an area that I've taught before," he said.

O'Leary says he chose to teach in Albemarle County because the school system encourages teachers to continue their education.

Both O'Leary and Cameron Fleming, who will be teaching kindergarten at Brownsville Elementary School, say teaching methods have changed a lot since they were in school.

"When we were growing up it was a lot more sitting in desks and hearing lectures. And the way that I was trained is more of cooperative learning and group work and kids working together to own their own knowledge," said Fleming.

The school system says diversity played a key role in hiring these new teachers.

"We think it’s really important for students to see folks in front of them who look like them, and have something that they connect to, whether it’s culturally or something else in their background," said Assistant Superintendent Clare Keiser.

During the academy, new teachers learn how to connect to students from all backgrounds.

"We're people, we naturally gravitate to some people and don't gravitate to others. But it’s important that all of our students feel likeable and smart," Fleming said.

On Thursday and Friday, the teachers will get the chance to start working on lesson plans in their own classrooms.