Kindergarten teacher Aisha Conner spent Monday deliberately setting up her classroom in a sparse fashion ahead of the first day of school at Bridge Street Elementary School in Yuba City.

“I’m excited because I’m going to focus on creating a sense of community in the classroom,” she said. “It’s all about being cool and calm and focusing on their work – not my work – that’s why I left the walls looking a little sterile and blank because I want to fill it up with their work throughout the year.”

Staff members at Yuba-Sutter area schools have spent the last couple weeks preparing for the onslaught of children that will descend onto campuses in the days ahead. Some schools start the new year today, while others will have their first days later this week or next week.

Conner, who has been teaching for seven years, looks forward to sharing the new experience of the kindergartners.

“This is my first year teaching kindergarten, so we will get to grow together,” she said. “I’m just as nervous as they are for the first day.”

Principal Melissa McIntyre was buzzing around the school along with other staff members ahead of the first day.

“On Friday, we had a staff meeting and all the teachers called the parents and welcomed them to the school year,” she said. “Being that we started the Parent Teacher Organization a couple of years ago, we’re just starting to see the fruits of it. The parents are really getting involved and recognize that it’s a partnership.”

She said the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program at the school helps students understand what’s appropriate behavior at different locations throughout the campus.

“It’s about building positive relationships and teaching positive behaviors,” she said. “There’s appropriate behavior for the loading zone, the cafeteria and the playground. The students travel around in groups and visit the different locations, so they know the behaviors, and there are signs outlining it.”

Over in Marysville at Kynoch Elementary School, Laura Anderson was cleaning and setting up her second-grade classroom ahead of their school’s first day on Wednesday.

“I love my job. It’s a wonderful school and a great, new administration, and I love when the lights go on in the students,” she said. “I started teaching later in life, and I’m always excited for school to start.”

She’s been teaching for 17 years and about a decade ago, created a garden outside her classroom that serves as a teaching tool for the children.

“Church members (from Cornerstone Church of Yuba City) came to help me clean up the garden before the start of school,” she said. “Every year, parents come to help in the garden and take pictures with their children, and the kids love working in the garden.”

Principal Eric Preston said support staff spent Monday preparing back-to-school packets for the school, which has an enrollment of about 740 students.

“One of the big things we’re looking forward to is a social-emotional learning curriculum called Toolbox,” he said. “It’s all about helping children persevere and get in touch with their emotions. So many kids have a hard time self-regulating behavior and this an empirically proven curriculum that the teachers and everyone on campus has been trained to help with.”

He said parents will be acquainted with the Toolbox curriculum and that there’s also an outline for what students will learn in the school year.

“Staff is working hard on the essential standards for kindergarten through fifth grade,” he said. “That shows what kids will be working on and allows parents, teachers and students to have a plan for what the students will be learning.”

He said another positive addition is that there will be several elementary school counselors that will be shared among the district.

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