Back-To-School preparations

Cyndy Hovenga organizes her classroom prior to back-to-school night Monday. She said having a good environment for students can contribute positively to their learning.

With the new school year set to start Thursday, teachers are prepping their lesson plans, schedules and even their classrooms for incoming students.

For Stefanie Lyle, the English Language Arts department chair, and Cyndy Hovenga, a seventh-grade ELA and Pre-AP ELA teacher at Spring Garden, room design plays a huge role in how they approach education.

“All of our classrooms are designed with teaching in mind,” Hovenga said. “If you look around our classrooms, you’ll see to-do lists, agendas, statements of what we can and will do in the classroom.”

Anchor charts, resources and other posters purchased by teachers help them to effectively relate ideas to students or even relay the attitudes and personalities of the teachers themselves.

For Brad Griffin, who teaches eighth-grade reading and writing at Spring Garden, it’s just another way to engage his students.

“It’s just not my personality to be super artsy and decorative, but I definitely want to use my classroom to convey information to the kids and give them resources that can help them in their learning,” he said.

“We want them to feel like they’re in a place where this is not about getting things right all the time. It’s about learning and growing. And so we’ve been working on just what are those first-day activities that we’re going to do to create a sense of community within the classroom and get those kids engaged right off the bat.”

Back-to-school night was held Monday evening in middle schools across the St. Joseph School District, and along with an inviting atmosphere, teachers hoped to welcome students and their families in an open-house format.

Papers containing sign-in information for the district’s online resources were spread across tables Monday afternoon, with some accompanied by boxes and bags of candy.

Moreover, Lyle explained that nights like these help the students put a face to the name. Likewise, it helps reduce overall anxiety level for all parties involved.

“We’re ready to see our kids and meet our kids,” Lyle said. “That’s the best part of being a teacher is those relationships. So we’re anxious and excited about that.”

Daniel Cobb can be reached


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