Teachers get ready for school

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The first school day of the 2009-10 school year is less than a week away for Albert Lea schools, but teachers returned to work last week to begin prepping for the new school year.

“It’s a nice transition from summer into the school year, because we all get a chance to get back together and talk about what we did over the summer and sort of mentally prepare for what’s ahead,” said Suzanne Mauer, music teacher at Lakeview Elementary School.

Teachers and staff returned Aug. 27, but preparing their classrooms is only a small part of getting ready for the school year. Staff development and training takes up much of the week.

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Some of that training is for programs like Viewpoint and Edline, which are Internet tools that help teachers and parents track a child’s progress. The teachers are adjusting to a change to Microsoft Office 2007.

While the time is beneficial, teachers and staff get anxious for students to arrive.

“It’s nice to try to get everything in order, but for me at least, when the kids come, that’s the focus of my job. It’s not to sit in meetings; it’s not just to do technology stuff. It’s to interact and teach kids,” said Albert Lea High School teacher Jerry Bizjak.

One thing discussed in the early meetings at the high school is the Vision Driven Action Plan, a document that spells out goals for the school and teachers, Bizjak said.

After meetings on things like policies and goals, teachers have time to decorate rooms and prepare a syllabus for each class.

“There are so many different things we have to take care of, and the rest of it is just getting ready for the kids to get here and have a good smooth start to the school year and make it so their transition to the year is a good one as well,” Bizjak said.

As a way to make that transition smooth, all the elementary teachers of each grade met Tuesday. Jane Hanson, Lakeview Elementary School physical education teacher, said it’s always a beneficial experience to meet with colleagues.

“It’s really nice to have this time to meet with the other phy-ed teachers from the other buildings because they have lots of good ideas, and we don’t get a chance to share what we do with kids,” Hanson said.

Mauer and the other elementary school music teachers met to discuss curriculum Tuesday. This is the second year using this music curriculum, and Mauer said the teachers are still getting used to the material. The teachers discussed what material to emphasize, since there’s more material than they can fit into the school year.

Students aren’t completely absent from these prep days, as all the different schools have a time for students to come to the school before the first day, like freshman orientation at the high school. Halverson Elementary School and the other elementary schools host conferences for parents and children to meet with teachers. Kindergarten teacher Kris Burnett said these conferences are important since her students are entering their first year of school.

“Starting kindergarten is a big step, and it’s hard on kids, and it’s sometimes hard for those parents,” Burnett said.

“You have to be kind of nurturing, and there are times when we do have to take the crying kid and cuddle them a little bit before we can get our day started. It’s scary for them, and it’s a little bit scary for us, too,” she added.

The conferences serve as a time for teachers to get to know a student and ask about any needs he or she might have, Burnett said.

The classrooms aren’t the only parts of the school to prepare for the new year. Carol Frydenlund, high school librarian, goes through books and magazines that arrived during the summer to get the media center ready for the year.

“It’s a lot of just getting caught up,” Frydenlund said.

“The media center is kind of the hub of the school, so it’s exciting to get it prepared and get welcome signs up, and it’s a good place for kids to come that are not familiar with the building, so we try to make it a real welcoming place,” she added.

The weeks leading to school are a bit odd without students in the building because Frydenlund said students are typically in the library as early as 7 a.m. daily.

“It is different before classes start because we are used to so much activity once school starts. It is different. I guess I like it better once all the kids come and all the activity starts because there’s never a dull moment,” Frydenlund said.

“It’s really neat to have a new beginning each fall,” she added.