Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 25, 2018

Back to school

MP teachers, students eager for new year
Aug 22, 2018
Photo by: Grace King As some students were less enthusiastic than others as they found their classroom during back to school night on Tuesday, Aug. 21. With a little prompting from Harlan Elementary School teacher Logan Hjerleid, her first grade students were able to find their seats and set up their desks for the first day of school.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Lincoln Elementary School second-grader Lakota Gatlin is most excited to learn about reading this year. And he should be.

His teacher, Sabera Ray, has a goal for her students who come into second grade reading mostly picture books to leave reading chapter books.

As the two met at the districtwide back to school night on Tuesday, Aug. 21, Ray asked Gatlin about his summer, directed him to his assigned seat and let him get started on organizing his school supplies.

In addition to the reading goal, Ray is ready to teach her second-graders hands-on science and math, which she believes helps them embrace the concepts more easily. Overall, however, Ray is committed to keeping learning fun.

“Kids come in nervous. I do my best to build up their self-esteem,” Ray said.

Daphne Gatlin, Gatlin’s mother, is thankful for that. Although she has worked with her son throughout the summer to minimize how much learning he lost, she still worries. “We try to make it a game over the summer, otherwise he loses interest,” Daphne said.

Teachers, however, are energetic about everything their students will learn this year. At Harlan Elementary School, first grade teacher Kari Stephens’ biggest goal every year is to be her students’ cheerleader and help them realize how capable they are.

Stephens uses positive reinforcement by handing out panther paws, a schoolwide reward, or panther pennies, an idea of her own. With panther pennies, students can buy a privilege such as lunch in the classroom with the teacher and a friend, sitting at the teachers’ desk for a day or inside recess with a friend.

To affirm their abilities, Stephens uses phrases that focus on developing a growth mind-set such as saying “You can’t do this yet, but …”

Harlan teacher Gloria Schmitz is looking forward to digging into the new science and social studies curriculum that the district began using last year.

Like Ray, Schmitz’s goal is to increase reading scores, but she also wants to serve the whole child, helping them build community and teaching them to be good citizens.

“The new school year is full of fresh and fun new ideas,” Schmitz said, adding that the new air conditioning in all the elementary schools is something to be grateful for. “I really think we will see an increase in student achievement because usually they are so hot and sweaty and we lose time.”

Harlan second grade teacher Nichole Ellington agrees. “The air conditioning most certainly helps,” she said. “If you’ve ever been in a room with 25 kids and it’s 90 degrees outside, you know it’s important.”

In the first few days of school, before the district breaks for the Old Threshers Reunion, Harlan first grade teacher Logan Hjerleid said it is pivotal to build relationships with her students by asking questions from how their day was to what they did over the summer.

While some of Hjerleid’s students walked in clinging to their mother’s legs too shy to say hello, others were eager to meet their teacher and sit down at their desks.

Although first-grader Aleannis Carrero is sad to see summer end, her brother, second-grader Jayden Carrero-Santiago is looking forward to learning more about numbers because he “wants to count.”

On the other hand, back at Lincoln first-grader Danielle Wagner seems unphased that summer is ending. Her brother too, fifth-grader Ajay Wagner, is excited to see classmates old and new.

Lincoln fourth-grader Izabelle Zihlman is also eager to make new friends. A daunting task for some, Zihlman said to conquer the fear of introducing herself to new classmates, she takes a deep breath before going to say hello.

Classes for students in the Mt. Pleasant Community School District begin on Thursday, Aug. 23.

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