Here Come the Students

August 29, 2018

Mrs. Kayleigh Pennell with her children while getting her fourth-grade class ready at South Street Elementary School. SUBMITTED PHOTO Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

By Chad Garner

Special to the Sentinel & Enterprise

FITCHBURG -- There’s excitement in the air with the official start of school on Thursday.

Naturally, there’s also some jitters and disappointment that summer is over, too.

But for all the teachers out there, now is the time they are gearing up to go back to school to mold young minds for the 2018-19 school year.

“I’ve been a teacher for over 30 years, and I still look forward to the start of school,” said FHS English teacher and department facilitator Colleen Hirons. “I am so fortunate to get to know a whole new group of students, and I hope they will have a productive year.”

The veterans and even first-year teachers all have a game plan already in place, and that’s to be 100 percent prepared for when the students invade each classroom on the first day.

“I’m always enthusiastic about starting a new school year,” said Goodrich Academy history teacher Brad McNamara. “New students and new challenges. Every school year brings with it new obstacles to overcome. There is an old saying that, ‘You only have one chance to make a good first impression.’ It’s very important for teachers to have their classroom and curriculum maps prepared before students arrive to provide structure and focus.”

FHS English teacher Kathy Hytinen describes the start of school like opening presents on Christmas morning.

“New students, new staff, fresh starts, reviewing the notes I left myself in various unit folders to fix or improve certain lessons, and reviewing my previous year’s student evaluations to help me plan and correct lessons,” she said.

FHS art teacher and track coach Sara Lamey says she enjoys meeting all the new students and getting to know them.

“A new school year brings opportunity, and that is exciting,” she said. “It will be fun to discover art talent in my students, and watch them build masterpieces for exhibits in March and April. It will also be fun to watch the athletes, musicians and thespians continue to grow their skills and talents as they begin to prepare for their competitions and performances.”

Forming relationships from the get-go is a major focus for the teachers as the new school year begins.

“Developing positive relationships and sharing the educational focus is crucial, so my year starts with activities that do just that,” Hirons said. “I have ëget to know each other warm ups’ for us to do. Students will also be researching the news events of summer and creating timelines of the events. Knowing and understanding what’s happening in their world is crucial for students and is a major focus in my class for discussion and argument and persuasive writing.

“Students have a voice, so through my classes I hope to help them develop their voices, so they become confident and mature speakers, writers and community members.”

Classroom rules are also put in place on Day One.

“Some of the rules in the classroom I stress deal with tardiness to class, attendance and smart phone use,” McNamara said.

Hytinen’s two basic rules are two-way respect and kindness.

FHS Principal Jeremy Roche sees firsthand the impact teachers have on students. And while teachers may be away from the classroom during the summer, many teachers are, in fact, still working on their craft.

“Teachers are the backbone of a free and informed society,” Roche said. “It is the most important job in the country, as far as I’m concerned. Their impact is profound in not only academic learning, but in a child’s social-emotional growth.

“Many teachers work year round in the sense that they are always learning. Fitchburg High offered five different professional development programs over the summer in addition to book studies, and many staff either took advantage of those or attended other courses or seminars. For many, teaching is their passion and not just a vocation, which is why I find inspiration in supporting the real work of a school -- teaching and learning.”

As a new and exciting school year is ready to begin, teachers have uplifting messages for their incoming students.

“My students should be ready to have fun, work hard, and leave my class with tools, skills and values that they can apply to the rest of their lives,” Hytinen said.

Added Lamey: “Take risks. Challenge yourself academically, join a club, try out for a sports team, take an art class, and try with a ‘can do attitude’ while you are there. A new school year offers opportunity; take the opportunity.”

It’s time for everyone to have a wonderful school year.

Garner is the public schools’ Family and Community Partnership champion.

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