First day of school: West Elementary


West Elementary teacher Kelly Hayes ushers students into her classroom on the first day of the 2018-19 school year. (Hayden Hyatt for The Tribune)

CULLMAN – Students, teachers, staff, and, in some cases, parents showed up bright and early Tuesday morning at West Elementary School for the first day of the 2018-2019 school year. Cullman City Schools started back Tuesday, Cullman County Schools on Wednesday.

Dr. Jay Page, principal of West Elementary, was actively helping get students to their proper places.

“We're excited about being started today,” said Page. “The first 30 minutes or so is just trying to get students in the correct place and just learning the morning routine. It seems to have gone pretty well.”

Fifth-grade math teacher Robin Smith said her students will start off with the basics.

“We'll be going over this whole week about our procedures about how we do things,” said Smith. “We'll kinda be doing some get-to-know activities, so they can get to know who is in their classroom. Plus, it will kinda help set the tone for the year, because we do small group math where they're having to do cooperative learning.

Smith continued, “They're learning to be able to talk and discuss with one another about math topics so it's just kinda helping to break the ice. (We’re) learning how to talk to one another and how to get to know someone, who may or may not be your friend.”

For Smith, it's all about the students.

“What drives me is just seeing that light bulb pop on when they finally get it, when they feel accomplished,” she smiled. “I hope that I send home as many life lessons with my kids as I do math lessons. I'm trying to teach the whole child, not just math.”

Staff at West Elementary have spent a lot of time over the summer preparing for this day, said Page.

“People think about the summer being off, but there's a lot of things that go on in the summer,” Page explained. “A lot of it is inside the building preparing for students; we've had some things going on to get the building ready itself. In about four of our classrooms we had hardwood floors, that had carpet over them, that we've refinished. That was done by our maintenance staff.”

The teachers at West Elementary have put in a lot prep work as well, according to Page.

“Our teachers have been in a lot the last couple of weeks, getting their rooms ready and getting the first week prepared,” Page said. “We've done professional development during the summer, where our teachers come in and work on new strategies. We've also been working on goals. We have a leadership team that has started to work on our improvement plan as well.”

Dr. Susan Patterson, superintendent of Cullman City Schools, said all the hours of preparation are for the students.

“Seeing so many excited students today, ready to start the new year, makes all the preparation worth it,” said Patterson. “Our teachers and staff do an amazing job each year but have really outdone themselves this summer stepping up their preparations for the best year ever.”

Page is excited about the upcoming year.

“(I'm looking forward) to watching out students grow, that's every year,” Page said. “It's fun watching them improve and grow. We've got great students at West; I enjoy working with the kids and I enjoy working with the faculty, so it's just something I've always enjoyed doing.”

Page said it takes teamwork for the students at West Elementary to succeed.

“We always say at the end of our announcements, 'We experience success together,' so working together is what we emphasize and what we try to do on a daily basis. For the parents, it’s reading the newsletter and following up with their children, encouraging them to read at night. For us, you know our teachers are the experts and they know the standards the students need to be working on and having fun and engaging lessons. The parents working with the teachers and working with the students. If we're working together, we're going to see our students improve.”

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