Teachers Gear Up for the First Day of School
Summer vacation came to an end yesterday for students in the Greenwich Public School district, but teachers have been busy setting up and preparing for the new school year.
Teachers at Old Greenwich School and Central Middle School unpacked boxes, decorated classrooms and worked collaboratively on yearlong lesson plans in schools with empty hallways.
As they worked, they knew it wouldn’t be long before the start of September, marking the return of hundreds of students back to school in Greenwich.
“We’re lucky to have a really tight-knit community here,” said Jackie Partridge, a first-grade teacher at Old Greenwich School. “Part of my job as a teacher is to welcome those new people.”
While organizing her classroom, the former kindergarten teacher said she was lucky she doesn’t get too nervous on the first day of school anymore.
“But there’s always the jitters, of course, for a whole new school year,” she said.
Already hung up last week in her semi-decorated classroom was her own kindergarten photo, taken at the same school where she teaches now.
“The first month is important to set those routines and classroom rules,” said Partridge.
For Old Greenwich art teacher Suzanne Gold, the first day of school isn’t “traumatic” she says, but rather more about getting into the routine of doing what she loves.
“I love to teach art,” said Gold, in what she called the nicest art room in the district. “I’m doing what I love. I’m like, they pay me for playing with crayons and watercolors and clay all day? I’m the luckiest person.”
Though she’s an art teacher, Gold has done the math on her years of working with kids. Over her 23-year teaching career, she estimates she’s had over 7,000 students that have taken her art class.
“I just feel like it’s back to the routine,” said Gold. “The only thing I’m anxious about is making sure I wake up to my alarm.”
Across town at Central Middle School, a new school year also marks a homecoming of sorts for a new school interim principal.
Thomas Healey, who has been with the GPS since 2000, says his first year in the administrative role will be smooth transition thanks to the working relationship he has had in previous roles within the district.
On a personal level, Healey said this year will be special to him because he was a member of the first sixth grade class that came to CMS after the district shifted away from the junior high model.
“I was a fifth grader rising into sixth at Cos Cob School,” said Healey. “I was part of the first class here. I have a tile on the wall along with the kids in my class at the time.”
He recalls being anxious, nervous and excited on his own first day of sixth grade.
But now, after a three-year stint at Western Middle School and having already worked collaboratively with his two assistant principals at CMS, Healey is in a position to bring comfort to those entering the same situation.
He says that a pledge to “connections before content” will allow teachers help kids adjust to a new school year early on.
“I think teachers recognize the responsibility to connect with kids beyond just the curriculum,” said Healey.
The first week of school will be an adjustment and learning period for both students and teachers, as the new eighth graders move to the top of the “academic food chain.”
“They’ve gone from looking up to people to now being role models themselves,” said CMS eighth grade math teacher T.J. Ostruzka. “It’s a different set of challenges they will have.”
While the algebra and geometry teacher knows that the first day can bring the unexpected, he reminds his class that they were once the newcomers, too. He challenges them to find a lost sixth grader and help them with a friendly face.
“I love creating the love of the subject in the students,” said Ostruzka. “Every year it’s a new challenge because there are many ways to teach. You have to find that way to connect and really motivate them to learn.”