8/26/11 Back to Class

Teacher assistant Carla King directs students Thursday prior to the start of the first day of school at Garrett Elementary in Mebane. Thursday marked the start of the 2011-12 school year for Alamance-Burlington School System students on the traditional calendar.

Photos by Sam Roberts / Times-News

Teacher assistant Carla King directs students Thursday prior to the start of the first day of school at Garrett Elementary in Mebane. Thursday marked the start of the 2011-12 school year for Alamance-Burlington School System students on the traditional calendar.

BACK TO CLASS
Ready to learn, students tackle first day of school
By Mike Wilder The Times-News 8/26/11     
Reprinted with permission.

Dottie Small hugs her son Jack, 5, in Tammy Teal’s kindergarten class prior to the start of the first day of school at Garrett Elementary in Mebane.
Dottie Small hugs her son Jack, 5, in Tammy Teal’s kindergarten class prior to the start of the first day of school at Garrett Elementary in Mebane.

Kindergarten students practiced walking quietly in the hallways of Garrett Elementary School — a skill demonstrated with confidence by slightly older boys and girls.

 At Southern Middle School, sixth-grade students learned their way around campus and saw a lot of new faces. Students from five different elementary schools move on to Southern Middle, the most of any in the Alamance-Burlington School System, Principal Heather Ward said.

 For most students in the Alamance-Burlington system, Thursday was the first day of the 2011-12 school year. Students in the system’s five year-round schools started a month earlier. All schools included, the system projects its enrollment at 22,531.

 Getting used to a new campus is a big deal regardless of grade level. At Western Alamance High School, simply knowing how to get around was enough to make a major difference for returning students.

 “It’s better than last year,” sophomore Marcus Shoffner said, “because you know where you’re going now.”

 At Garrett, Principal Steve Achey was wearing a Cat in the Hat necktie as he welcomed students.

 “That’s normally one of the main points of conversation with the little ones,” he said. Achey said it sends the message he’s friendly, “not that big, mean, scary guy in the office.”

 It wasn’t just kindergarten students who spent a big part of the day reviewing rules for the school year.

 Third-grade teacher Lori Smith was discussing guidelines with her class when one student, Dalton Robertson, offered the right answer about why saving a seat for another student in the cafeteria is a bad idea.

 “It makes them feel like you don’t like them as a friend,” Robertson said, when a student hears the seat is intended for someone else.

 Smith wasn’t around to hear the compliment Robertson gave when asked what he liked most about the first day: “The best part so far is meeting the teacher.”

 Ward described Southern Middle’s new students as “wide-eyed and very excited, and nervous, too.” The better part of the day was spent teaching students about the campus, their teachers and each other.

 Students can change a lot from one year to the next. The best illustration on Thursday may have been when seventh-grade student Joseph Goswick stood up to reveal he’s taller than Ward. That’s thanks to a serious growth spurt — she was taller than him last year.

 At Western Alamance High School, Latin teacher Kenneth Lockner used his trademark humor while asking students to fill out a form.

 One of the questions was about whether they prefer to be called something other than their first name. Lockner said he would honor reasonable requests, but “‘Leader of the free world’ isn’t going to work.”

 Among the highlights of the of the students’ first day at Western, as reported by assistant principal Pam Mebane: “The upperclassmen are being nice to the freshmen.”