MILLEDGEVILLE — Early Learning Center (ELC) pre-k teacher Bunny Simons was thrilled to welcome new students back to school Friday.
“We had a great day. We found out who stole the cookies from the cookie jar,” Simons said Friday afternoon while comforting a homesick student. “I want to thank parents for getting these children ready for their first day of school.”
Fellow ELC teachers Sharon Avery and Wanda Beard were amazed to have their new 3 year-olds follow directions as they now become accustomed to the school setting.
“It’s been a hectic day, but I think it’s going to be a good group of kids this year. This is the first time these students are in school and they did an amazing job,” Avery said while walking students to the lunchroom. “We’re going to learn a lot and have fun while we’re doing it.”
Kicking off the academic year smoothly, ELC Director Blanche Lamb looks forward to the year ahead in hopes for many more similar days.
“I saw more children excited to come to school than upset. It seemed like we had a larger number of parents bringing their children in. Our younger children tend to be a little more weepy, but compared to last year, it’s gone more smoothly,” Lamb said. “The weekend doesn’t really allow the children to get acclimated to school, but by the end of next week, they will be navigating their parents throughout the school. The goal is to make children as independent as possible.”
This year, a team of 60 ELC faculty and staff will work to educate nearly 270 students.
“This particular faculty here is a super faculty. They’re great teachers, but they’re just good people,” Lamb said. “We’re very fortunate to have a family of staff that get along and help each other.”
Across the road at Blandy Elementary School, Principal Charlene Thorpe lost sleep for the past week due to her anticipation of greeting her 800 new and returning scholars and team of 73 Friday.
“The first day of school has been very smooth. Parents came in and jumped right in with our new scholars. We had a special welcome to our class of 2026, who are our kindergarten scholars,” Thorpe said before introducing herself to new students. “Our parents know we have the best interest of all of our scholars at Blandy Hills Elementary School as we continue student achievement. I told the teachers that the energy they brought here [Friday] morning needs to continue through May. We must have the passion to come in everyday to touch, embrace, educate and nurture our young scholars.”
Blandy Hills kindergarten teacher Cathy Sellers looks forward to “new challenges, new achievements and new growth” this year.
“I’m excited to see light bulbs turn on in these little grains,” she said while students colored the Gingerbread Man. “Students came in with a bundle of energy; it’s been wonderful.”
Georgia College student teacher Lauryn Dennard is proud to be able to give back to the school that once raised her.
“I expected to see some crying, but there was none. I was thrilled to see excited faces,” she said. “I’m glad I get to work with one of the best.”
Lamb encourages parents to get involved with their children at home and at school.
“Parents need to be involved with their children at home now or they can come to school anytime and volunteer. Early bedtime is also critical at home. These children don’t need specific learning toys, workbooks or computers; one of the easiest but most critical areas is language,” Lamb said. “Parents need to have conversations, read to them and have them tell stories so they use expressive language skills.”
School Superintendent Geneva Braziel visited several classrooms within the school district to see students in back-to-school mode and ready to engage.
“During the weekend, I encourage parents to sit with their students and go over the curriculum and get organized so that when they come back on Monday, we’re ready to have a full week of instruction,” Braziel said. “Parents also need to complete and return paperwork sent home with their students, and update their contact information by notifying the school.”
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