Before kicking off the new school year, which starts tomorrow, teachers in New London welcomed new and returning students with back-to-school bashes that took on a summer carnival theme.
Kindergartner Aydan Huezo and her caregiver, Kim Bass, are excited to see Aydan’s first classroom at Winthrop STEM Elementary Magnet School.
At Winthrop School, families were invited to meet their students’ teachers, tour their homerooms, enjoy carnival-style food—from hot dogs to sno-cones—prepared and served by the school’s cafeteria staff, and head outdoors for fun and games. The school’s playground was transformed into a midway of face painting, bean bag toss, sand art, and other activities, and a photo booth was set up indoors for back-to-school family snapshots.
Winthrop second-grader Jackson Venturini shakes hands with his new teacher, Jasmine Holloman.
“This event gives us a chance to meet students and ease any fears they may have,” says Holloman. “The kids now know who to look for, and it allows you to start building those connections. Plus, parents have an opportunity to share important information with us about their children. We’re all family here. We’re all in the same place.”
Fourth-grade teachers Stephanie Ordille (left) and Andrea Mea greet students Alex Hester and Teagan Quinn. “This event sets a positive tone for the academic year, and it’s a great way for our students to get comfortable about where their new classroom is and who’s in it,” Mea says.
Winthrop art teacher Mandy Lynn welcomes Chloe, Christopher, and Alyssa Labrecque, along with their mother, Nicole. The students learned what types of art they would be exploring each grade level this year.
Twenty-two-year veteran speech and language pathologist Paige True loves Winthrop’s back-to-school carnival. “It’s very informal and fun. It also helps us figure out how each child will be getting home the first day of school and for the rest of the school year.”
At New London’s C.B. Jennings Dual Language and International Elementary Magnet School, which held its back-to-school bash later that same afternoon, teachers and community partners set up tables outdoors, giving families a closeup look at the many resources available to them and their children, including dental, orthodontic, and community health care; school social workers and liaison officers; before- and after-school programs and transportation; Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs; Girl Scouts; and extracurricular science and sailing activities.
Jennings School first-grader Liam Baldwin gets a welcome-back squeeze from ESL teacher May Reitz.
The entire fifth-grade team was on hand to greet students entering their final year at C.B. Jennings School. Pictured are Ryan Hood, New London Education Association (NLEA) President Richard Baez, Brenda Santana, NLEA Treasurer and Membership Chair Margaret Lewis, and student teacher Deshanda Green. “It’s so cool,” said Lewis. “Students get to see your face, and you get to make wonderful connections with their families. It calms everybody’s nerves.”
Baez meets one of his new students, fifth-grader Ava Gregory, and her father, Roger Celesk.
Jennings art teacher Arlene Morrison, a.k.a. “Mrs. Merrymaker,” paints the face of new kindergarten student Ruby Ajala.
“We wanted to have this event outdoors so that everyone in the community could see,” said Jennings Principal Jose Ortiz (right), who talked with CEA Executive Director Don Williams about professional development and other teacher resources CEA provides.
Physical education teacher Brian Johnston, a 19-year veteran, says he loves the family-oriented, hometown feeling of Jennings’ back-to-school bash. “It’s not just students and their parents who come out; it’s extended family—aunts and uncles and grandparents. It’s great.” Johnston, shown here greeting first-grader Xavier Morales, organized an Israeli dodgeball game called ga-ga.
“Having this kind of kickoff is an opportunity for teachers and students to get to meet each other in a fun, lighthearted environment,” says literacy collaborative coach Elizabeth Sked, who has been teaching in New London for over 20 years. “I have loved every minute and honestly could not imagine working anywhere else,” she says, adding, “Our back-to-school bash creates excitement about the first day and gives everyone—teachers, students, and families—a chance to put a name with a face. I hope students and families get excited about this school year and the adventure we are going to embark on together. I also hope it eases any anxiety they may be having about school.”
The Literacy Collaborative model is new to the district this year, and in her role as coach, Sked is co-teaching third grade with Emily Chaney.
“I could not be more excited,” she says. “I am thrilled to be creating a classroom of readers and writers, meeting students where they are, and guiding them to meet their full potential.”
Chaney says it is not very often that teachers see parents during the school year, so the back-to-school bash is “a great way to break the ice and show that we’re all in it together.”
Chaney (left) and Sked have been busy this summer planning lessons and rearranging their space to create an engaging environment for their new students.
“I cannot wait to see the kids excited about reading and writing and celebrating their successes,” says Sked. “Our profession is challenging—but honestly—tied with being a parent, it’s the most rewarding thing I could be doing.”