School kicks off Monday after lots of anticipation

Students got a chance last week to meet their teachers and get their bearings before the start of classes


Stephen Foster Elementary School student Abigail Oxford-Pickeral jokes with her teacher Carly Sewell using an oversized mouth during the annual Meet the Teacher event on Friday. Sewell teaches third, fourth and fifth grade students in the school's STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) lab.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 8:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, August 18, 2013 at 8:13 p.m.

Friday dawned gray and gloomy, but the Marching Ram Band brightened the morning for hundreds of incoming freshmen and their parents at Eastside High School.

Students and their families flocked to the public schools on Thursday and Friday to meet teachers and attend orientation programs ahead of the first day of school — Monday.

At Eastside, the wide-eyed and gangly crop of new ninth-graders was greeted in the school auditorium by the marching band, with its shiny brass glinting under the fluorescent lights and rousing tunes that drowned the sound of the rain.

Orientation was one part pep rally, one part lecture.

"Find a niche and get involved," said Principal Jeff Charbonnet, sporting an Eastside green shirt.

He implored the Class of 2017 to adhere to the dress code and do their homework. Also to come out and support Eastside's football team against rival Buchholz High School on Aug. 30.

Next, the ninth-grade teachers trotted out from the wings of the stage, high-fiving the cheerleaders, who tirelessly executed toe-touches and hurdler jumps for each name called.

After a final cheer, the crowd was released into the courtyard of the school, where groups set up tables to lure students into buying school T-shirts (approved as part of the uniform) or joining boys soccer, girls lacrosse, Brain Bowl or drama club.

Then it was time to meet the teachers. Tammy Meyers, who teaches theater to all four grades, stood outside her classroom, waiting for new students. "It's exciting to look at this new school year as a fresh start," she said. "It's like moving to a new town and meeting everyone you're going to spend the next 10 months with."

Even after 22 years of teaching, Meyers said the week leading up to the first day of school is still stressful, although it gets easier. She does more re-evaluating of her lesson plans than creating brand new ones.

"And hopefully you've left your room decent so you don't have to start over … like an empty apartment," she said.

Down the hall, Samantha Hackett, 14, was meeting her pre-IB biology teacher, Jon Allen. "I'm excited but nervous at the same time," said Samantha, who will join just a few of her friends from Kanapaha Middle School at Eastside today.

She's thinking about getting involved with Student Government, and maybe the ice-carving club.

"That sounds cool," said little sister Taylor, who came along for the ride Friday.

Their mom, Amy Hackett, is also nervous. Samantha is her eldest child, and the first to start high school.

"I was about crying in there," she told her older daughter. "You are about to start the most exciting part of your life."

Meet-your-teacher events at elementary schools were more low key.

Second-year kindergarten teacher Lauren Smith greeted her new students at Metcalfe Elementary with a big smile.

"I'm so much more prepared," she said.

Donors supplied her with a brightly colored rug and other classroom supplies she didn't have last year, Smith said. They made all the difference.

One of Smith's students, Nazarri Allen, visited the classroom with her mom and her brother. Nazarri, 5, was excited to start school, but she was a little shy, too. "She told me she was nervous to have a new teacher," said Nazarri's mother, Glynitra Mitchell.

But at 6 years old, Mitchell's son Davontae Powell is an old pro. Davontae said he's looking forward to learning more science, his favorite subject, and more math.

He definitely wants to get good grades, he said, which earned him a high-five from his mother.

And he hopes his first-grade class goes on lots of field trips.

"I'll be happy," he said.

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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