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First day shows bundle of nerves, excitement

Posted: August 23, 2011 - 9:48pm
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Mason Fowler, 11, right, shows Kathy Tran, 11, how much she has grown over the summer as they enter Floyd Dryden Middle School for the first day of school on Tuesday.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Mason Fowler, 11, right, shows Kathy Tran, 11, how much she has grown over the summer as they enter Floyd Dryden Middle School for the first day of school on Tuesday.

Students gathered around Floyd Dryden Middle School early Tuesday morning, some standing in the rain outside, chatting with friends, others with an expression of wide-eyed nervousness.

Sixth graders tended to be more quiet on their first day of middle school, trying to take in the new building and new faces.

Eighth graders poked fun at friends heading down the wrong wing for class (generally, each grade is divided by wing).

Teachers seemed to be more thrilled to be back in school than students, but perhaps it is just the first week adjustment period.

Teaka Carro and Libby Harris started sixth grade at Floyd Dryden on Tuesday. They didn’t know what they were looking forward to, or what new things they were going to learn, but admitted music would probably be their favorite class this year because they were in it together.

Lacey Honsinger, Maddy Wyatt and Rylynn Pollow began the first day of their last year of middle school Tuesday and they’re already looking forward to the biggest middle school event — the eighth-grade dance.

As far as classes, the girls believe it will be business as usual.

“The same as last year but a little bit harder,” Pollow said.

They all said it was rather difficult to get up for school that morning.

Principal Tom Milliron was abuzz with excitement as he greeted each student by name and began to learn the incoming sixth-graders’ names.

“This is one of the top three days of the year,” Milliron said. “This day, the eighth-grade dance — the culmination of the middle school experience — and the third most exciting day is the eighth-grade promotion.”

Milliron said the biggest challenge for the sixth graders will be learning how to open their combination lockers, though as fifth graders they were encouraged to practice over the summer.

“They all walk in here going ‘wow this school is so big,’” he said. “A couple of weeks later it’s not so big.”

Patrice Helmar is student teaching at Floyd Dryden for a Master of Arts in teaching degree this year with eighth-grade language arts teacher George Gress. She said she is looking forward to the experience and getting to know the students.

“You get nervous just like when you’re a student,” Helmar said of her first day student teaching. “I think everybody is excited and nervous. This is kind of the honeymoon period for students.”

Gress is glad to be back in action.

“What I always look forward to is what they can do,” Gress said.

He likes to learn who the climbers are, artists, X Games enthusiasts — their interests.

“Also what they don’t know is that’s going to turn into pieces of writing,” Gress said. “They seem polite, but nervous. This will last about a week.”

He is looking forward to teaching his favorite unit, which he starts the year off with. It involves a set of various kinds of writing that are “experiential.”

“The writing lets us build a sense of community,” Gress said. “One of the challenges we always face is the business of building community and working to eliminate bullying.”
He said the writing helps students be comfortable with themselves and gives them a safe space to express themselves.

School started for grades 1-12 on Tuesday. On Monday, kindergarteners will strap on their backpacks and take on their first first day of school. A day later, preschoolers will get their turn.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com

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