There’s nothing quite like the first day of school.
From the excitement and nerves that make it difficult for young students to sit in their chairs to the wonder of learning new things and making new friends, the beginning of the school year is a milestone event for families, teachers and communities.
On Thursday morning, Seymour Community School Corp. welcomed back around 4,700 students in kindergarten through 12th grade for the 2018-19 school year.
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At Seymour-Jackson Elementary School, children filed off of buses or jumped out of their parents’ or grandparents’ car. Although there were some last-minute eye rubbing to wake up, most kids smiled, eager to make a good impression.
Music teacher Kathy Porter stood outside the main entrance welcoming students by name and commenting on how she had missed them or how much they had grown over the summer. She was more than happy to snap a family picture with a parent’s cellphone, capturing the special moment.
Once inside, students were greeted again by Principal Justin Brown and other teachers and staff members who were there to answer questions, provide encouragement and help kids start the year off right.
“It’s a little chaotic making sure everyone gets where they’re supposed to be, but once we get settled in, it quiets down and we start getting back into a routine,” Brown said.
For kindergartners, however, it’s a new routine, and it can be a little scary.
That’s why at Jackson, parents are allowed to walk kindergartners to their classroom to help them feel more at ease. The school also conducted orientation and open house events prior to Thursday to make the transition smoother.
“It was more hands-on this year, so the kids got to come in and do activities, which made them more comfortable being here,” said kindergarten teacher Julie Rueger.
Upon entering Rueger’s classroom, students put their backpacks and belongings in their cubby holes and then found their seats. Their first assignment was to color a “First Day of School” worksheet, which they eagerly got started on.
The students quietly worked until all of their classmates had arrived.
“This is such a sweet group,” Rueger said. “I’ve never had a group this quiet before.”
When he first walked in, 5-year-old Mateo Zambrano Villatoro was grinning from ear to ear.
“Look at that smile,” Rueger said. “That’s what we love to see in kindergarten.”
But it’s not unusual for young students to shed a few tears due to mom and dad leaving and not knowing their classmates.
“We’re prepared for that, too,” Rueger said.
She also was impressed by how the students were following directions, sharing crayons and for the most part, coloring in the lines. Some of the students were even able to write their name on their paper.
“It’s going to be a fabulous year,” Rueger said.
When they were finished coloring, Rueger collected the papers and said she was gong to give them back at the end of the school year so the students could see how much they had improved.
Rueger told her students besides coloring better, they also will be learning how to read, do math, write and learn about science and social studies this school year.
Victoria Sierman, 5, said reading won’t be a problem for her.
“I already know how to read ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear,’” she said.
“Then I guess we’ll have to work on harder books, won’t we?” Rueger replied.
After playing a game of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” to get the wiggles out, it was time to sort through school supplies. Each student was asked to bring in things like Clorox wipes, Kleenex, Ziploc bags, hand sanitizer, markers, erasers, crayons and paint.
It was enough to wear some students out. Emma Mikels, 5, was ready for a break.
“I’m excited for nap time,” she said.
Other students were ready to go outside.
“When is it time for recess?” 5-year-old Alexis Elmore asked.
Sebazhton Burton, 5, wasn’t worried about a nap or playing. He could only think about one thing.
“I’m getting so hungry,” he said. “When do we go eat lunch?”
In another classroom, first-grade teacher Jorydn Henkle was reading “First Day Jitters” to her students. It was a good choice and fostered a discussion about what kind of feelings the students were having on the their first day back.
“We had a lot of happy and some nervous,” Henkle said.
Lilly Shuenthal, 6, said she couldn’t wait to get to school Thursday and was excited about the day.
“I wanted to see my new classroom and meet new friends and my teacher and see which cubby was mine,” she said.
Henkle said as a teacher, the first day of school is her favorite time of the year.
“I just love getting to know the kids and their personalities and see their excitement,” she said. “It makes me just as excited as they are.”