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First bell rings for teacher at McLaurin Elementary

August 21, 2018

FLORENCE, S.C. − The start of each school year marks a day filled with firsts for many students, but Monday brought a first day for 173 new teachers in Florence One Schools.

At McLaurin Elementary School, Shelly Smith began her first day teaching. Smith, who graduated from FMU in December of 2017, is teaching third- and fourth-grade Montessori classes.

Smith started her first class of the day with a meditation for students to focus on having a positive day and went over class rules and procedures, creating a class pledge with students that encourages class community and respect. Smith said she does the meditation to start the classroom off on a positive note.

Smith said learning all of the little responsibilities in addition to teaching was the biggest transition from student teaching in college to teaching by herself in the classroom, but she said overall, her first day went well.

“I am so excited to hopefully instill a love of learning in the students and just be a light, because some students might not have perfect home lives, and you might be that one person who is that ray of positivity in their lives,” Smith said.

In preparation for the first day of school, Smith said she had to reorganize the classroom and class library and unpack and set up the Montessori materials for her classroom.

Smith was a former student in the Montessori School of Florence. She also attended The Byrnes Schools and Hannah-Pamplico High School. After seeing how traditional public and private classrooms worked in comparison to Montessori classrooms, she said she wanted to be a Montessori teacher because of the programs that help students understand the reasons behind lessons.

“I felt like the materials gave you that physical understanding of the concept, and you could say, OK, I understand why I am doing that,’” Smith said.

In addition to new teachers at McLaurin, some teachers started new job positions in the school. Amy Williams, who is starting her 22rd year at McLaurin, started a position as curriculum coordinator for the school.

Williams said it was hard to transition out of the classroom because she did not want to leave the students, but she is excited for this new opportunity. As a curriculum coordinator, Williams said she helps train teachers to teach a Montessori classroom.

“It was hard for me to leave the classroom,” Williams said. “Now I feel like I can impact more students when I’m helping teachers help teachers.”

This school year McLaurin Elementary added more Montessori classrooms but still has three fourth-grade classrooms that are not Montessori, and next year the school will be fully Montessori, according to Smith.

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