By Rob Glidden
The summer between the last school year and the new school year about to begin has been one with many transitions, but Southington’s teachers and administrators are planning to greet students with the same enthusiasm they have made a priority in the past.
Thalberg Elementary School Principal Megan Bennett, who is taking over for longtime principal Beecher Lajoie, said she intends to spend the first day greeting as many students and families as she can before returning to her work keeping the school running smoothly on a daily basis.
“So far it’s wonderful,” Bennett said of her first several weeks on the job. “People keep coming in and introducing themselves and I’m really excited for the school year to start.”
Teachers typically visit their classrooms in late August to organize their materials and update decorations like posters or personalized nametags.
“I’d like them to feel like it’s a cheerful place,” said Rebecca Richards, a fifth-grade teacher at Thalberg. “Fifth graders aren’t necessarily as excited about school as younger kids but I try to make sure they feel welcome.”
Each of the students in her classroom will be greeted by green notebooks with their names on them, which she said reflects the important role writing has in fifth grade. The students are encouraged to personalize their notebooks with pictures and other decorations, although Richards said she would communicate that professional writing typically does not use social media language and abbreviations, such as “u” instead of “you.”
At South End Elementary School, second grade teacher Keith Lamontagne said he makes an effort to meet his future students at the end of the previous school year.
“Most of the kids already know me,” he said. “I’m the only male teacher here and that’s a big deal for some of the second-graders. At this age, they want to do well but every year is different. Last year, I had 16 kids and this year I have 21.”
Even though second graders do not have to take the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT), Lamontagne said there were still many benchmarks students had to meet and that in general, current second graders were learning more complex information than previous generations.
Over the course of the school year, he will be teaching the students about calculating time, money, 2-digit addition and subtraction and the basics of multiplication and division. He said he was looking forward to the imminent first day of school, referring to his job as “the best job in the world.”
Third-grade teacher Christy Michalak was in the process of sorting through the large amount of books in her classroom, which will eventually be organized by reading level, series and genre. After the year begins, her students will choose their own book for a “reader’s workshop.”
“I’d like them to feel that it’s not my classroom, it’s ours,” she said. “It’s a place of comfort.”
South End is another elementary school with a new leader going into the new school year. After administrator Sally Kamerbeek was moved to Hatton Elementary School, the school board appointed Jim Quinn as the new South End principal. Quinn had previously been an Assistant Principal at Derynoski Elementary School before working as a principal in Meriden for a few years.
“It’s going great so far,” Quinn said. “I’m working to get to know a lot of people and learn what makes this school tick.”
The school district’s annual “convocation” event is on Monday, August 27. After two additional days of professional development, students return to school on Thursday, August 30.