The scene was very familiar to me; it was one I had witnessed many times over.  In fact, if I added up my years as a student, teacher, and administrator, this was the 52nd year I had participated in the opening day of school.

The sights and sounds were almost comforting in their familiarity.  Freshly scrubbed faces showing anticipation, anxiousness, excitement, and even resignation radiated from family vehicles and school buses.  Older students sought out friends to share exciting summer vacations; younger students grasped parents’ hands and posed for first-day-of-school pictures; other parents waved encouragingly with hopes for a great first day.  And, like almost every opening day, I experienced a single moment that I know I will remember for a long time — the moment that always reminds me why I truly enjoy what I do!

It began with a flash of motion in my peripheral vision.  I turned to watch one of our youngest students coming across the driveway with her parents.  As they stepped onto the sidewalk, she let go of her parents’ hands and looked around in awe.  When she saw me, it was clear she remembered me from the Early Childhood picnic.  When I said hello, she pressed her hands to her cheeks and began to shake.  She was giggling!  It was obvious that she couldn’t control her excitement!  As I welcomed her to school, she just kept giggling and giggling.  It was infectious.  Every adult in earshot was reacting in kind.  She never said a word, just kept giggling and proceeded into the building with all the others.  I thought, ‘This is what school should be about!’

Educators and parents should always strive to engage and excite children about learning.  New experiences can be challenging, but they should also be engaging!  I have found that one of the most significant advantages for students attending the Academy is the benefits they receive due to ability to really know each one of our students and their families.  In Responsive Classroom® and Developmental Designs®, both used at our school, knowing the student is the most effective way to be able to not only teach, but engage a student.  This is the reason we have organized parent/teacher kick-off conferences at the beginning of the year, to allow parents and teachers to connect and begin the partnership that will enable the best education for each student.

Being a student is often hard work and rightly so.  The secret to success is to keep students engaged so that the challenges are manageable and learning is exciting.

I am pleased to welcome everyone to the 2014-15 academic year — here’s hoping there are lots of giggles!