First day of school = butterflies, excitement and enthusiasm

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Kindergartener Evan Gaylord can’t wait for his first day at “big boy” school. Courtesy photo.
It’s not only kids that get butterflies in their stomach in anticipation of the first day of school.

Their parents do, too. And then let’s not forget about the teachers and administrators.

“I always have them,” says Heather Miller, principal of Timbercrest Jr. High, “and I’m going on my 28th year in education. I never sleep the night before school starts.” She adds, “The first day is the most important day of the year because it sets the tone, the expectations and the energy for the year. If it goes well, then the kids want to return.”

Miller loves seeing the kids and she thrives on their excitement as they reconnect with old friends and begin the process of forming new relationships.

She is looking forward to getting to know the incoming seventh graders and welcoming them to the junior high experience.

“My goal is to make them feel comfortable here and to help give them tools to be successful as students and citizens,” she adds.

Over at Leota Jr. High, Principal Obadiah Dunham notes that the first day of school never gets old.

He says, “It’s like the first Friday night football game of the year. You get the opportunity to see the fruition of all the off-season work and game planning.”

Dunham enjoys the energy and excitement that staff and students bring to the new school year and comments that everyone approaches a new year with renewed enthusiasm for learning. He also looks forward to meeting and getting to know the new students and families who will become part of the Leota learning community.

“It’s fun for me to see how much all of the students have grown up over the summer and hear their summer stories, as well as their hopes and dreams for the upcoming school year,” remarks Dunham. “I guess the beginning of the school year is akin to seeing the new flowers and plants in the spring.”

Although Heather Hiatt, WHS assistant principal, has been a teacher for 14 years and an administrator for two, she is always nervous to meet the students and get back into the routine of the school day.

“I’m sure that I will be extra nervous this year since it will be my first day at Woodinville and in the Northshore district,” she notes. “I’m looking forward to meeting all of the students and becoming part of the Woodinville High School community.

“I have heard that the Falcon football games are incredible demonstrations of school and community spirit, so I’m excited to wear my new gear and help cheer on our football team this fall season.”

For Hiatt, the best part of the first day of school is that it never ceases to remind her why she loves her job.

She adds, “I get inspired by the energy from the staff and students as we begin a new year together. For me, the first day represents a time to make new goals, have new experiences and form new relationships. I’m always excited to get this process started after a restful summer break.”

At Sunrise Elementary where Barbara Cordray has been managing the office for the past eight years, the first day is always very busy. “There’s so much going on, but it’s all very exciting for everyone,” she remarks. “Kids are coming back, parents are stopping in and of course, there are the new kindergarteners. It’s especially fun to see the little ones come through the door. Some of them are very ready to be here and it’s the parents that have a hard time letting go. Other times, it’s the opposite.” Bothell High’s office secretary, Debbie Ludlan, is a fourteen-year veteran at the school and even after all these years, she still doesn’t sleep the night before the first day of school. “I’m all pumped up with excitement,” she explains. “I can’t wait to see the kids.” She adds, “I’m looking forward to getting to know the new students, as well as the new staff. We have a lot of new teachers this year.”

Ludlan can’t picture herself being anywhere but at BHS. She is proud to be a part of such a wonderful school and views it as a unique community. She says, “It’s such a close knit group here. I think of it as my second family.”

Bear Creek Elementary Principal Gary Keeler likes the mix of new, fresh faces with familiar that greet him on the first day. “The smiles never fail to make me excited,” he comments, “and it reminds me how important this work is and how much I value all that we do at this school.”

Keeler is looking forward to helping the sixth graders maximize their opportunities to be leaders. He notes that it is their turn to leave their stamp on the school. He also can’t wait to reconnect with the parent group.

“We have such amazing support from our parents at Bear Creek,” he says. “This community is wonderful and so welcoming.”

One of Keeler’s teachers, Carla Squires, views the first day as a fresh start for everyone, both students and teachers. “There’s a beauty in this,” she explains. “Everyone gets this opportunity for change and a new beginning. The slate is wiped clean.”

Back-to-school dreams are common for Squires in the weeks leading up to the first day.

“The other night I dreamed I didn’t have the key to my new classroom,” says the longtime educator with a laugh.

Squires is teaching fourth grade for the first time this year after spending the past two-plus decades in K-3.

Her daughter, Sarah, will be a senior at WHS this fall and although she’s looking forward to seeing her fellow classmates again and sharing summer experiences, she’s not quite ready to give up her vacation.

“Getting up early will be difficult,” she admits.

Other seniors, like Melissa and Nicole Joseph, have mixed feelings about the start of school. “It’s weird to realize that this is our last first day of high school,” comments Melissa.

She adds, “It’s going to be a fun year, though, and I’m going to make the most of it.” As a cheerleader, Melissa is particularly looking forward to Falcon football games. She’s also excited about some of her classes.

The teen hopes to attend WSU and study education, as she aspires to be a teacher.

Her twin sister Nicole is doing a nursing program at Woodinville and will be involved in the school’s Link crew, as well as serve as vice president of the Honor Society.

“It’s going to be a great year, but it’s bittersweet, too,” she says.

The twins’ mother, Lisa Joseph, concurs with her daughters’ sentiments, adding, “I had one set of twins already go through this so I know what to expect and it really is an exciting year. But, it’s a bit sad for me because these are my last two kids and when they graduate, that’s it.”

Megan Legg, on the other hand, has a few years to go when it comes to her kids’ schooling. “I have three children,” she notes, “and each one is at a different school. Grace is a junior at Woodinville, Dominic is a seventh grader at Timbercrest and my youngest, Libby, will be starting second grade at East Ridge.”

These past few weeks, Legg has been running around trying to get everyone ready for the first day, which means buying school supplies and new clothes.

She looks forward to hearing all about her children’s teachers and who’s in their classes this year.

Libby, 7, admits to being slightly nervous about the start of school as she doesn’t yet know who her teacher is and if she’ll have any friends in her classroom. She can’t wait, however, to play on the playground.

Her sister Grace comments that the first day is always stressful because you have to find all your classes and get used to different teachers, but she is excited to connect with all the friends she hasn’t seen during the summer.

For Aidan Cowles, a ninth grader at Timbercrest, the first day marks his last year in junior high.

“It’ll be fun to be the big kid on campus and to be the leaders of the school, but I’m not looking forward to the loss of free time and all the homework,” he remarks.

Jack Unruh, 11, can relate to being a “big kid.” He’ll be a sixth grader at Frank Love, which marks his final year of elementary school. Although nervous about a new teacher and having a lot more homework to do, he is psyched about his new role as safety patrol captain.

“Only sixth graders can be captains,” he notes.

For Evan Gaylord, the first day of school is a monumental occasion for both him and his mother.

The five-year-old is just starting his education and is thrilled to be entering kindergarten at Hollywood Hill Elementary.

“He’s not nervous at all,” comments his mom, Allison Gaylord.

“He’s a very social child and he’s going to really thrive at ‘big boy’ school. I think I’ll be the one with butterflies and I know I’ll be the one shedding a few tears on the first day.”

Even Larry Francois, Northshore’s superintendent, hardly sleeps the night before the first day of school.

He’s starting his 12th year as an administrator and he notes that the start of school is still a combination of excitement, anticipation and anxiety.

“The school year has its own ‘bio-rhythm,’ so to speak,” he comments, “and I really enjoy that. I can’t imagine working in a field where every day and any time of the year is more or less the same.

“I find the ups and downs, starts and stops, periods of intense energy and exhaustion invigorating. As I do every year, I’ll start the first day helping out at one of our schools.

“There’s nothing better than seeing the excitement and anticipation on the part of kids, parents and staff as the new year begins. Even high schoolers are by and large excited on the first day, regardless of what they may say to the contrary!”

Francois looks forward to continuing the good work that he sees taking place across the district to help more kids achieve at higher levels.

He adds, “It may sound trite, but we’re doing great work with the curriculum renewal and a common instructional focus that I really believe is paying dividends now and will continue to do so into the future.”

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