The students in Kristin Moody's first-grade classroom at Meadow Point Elementary School weren't the only ones dealing with nerves on the first day of school.
As a teacher, Moody had made detailed plans to help her students deal with the jitters that come with beginning a new school year. As kids lined up outside the school on Aug. 18, Moody had plans to read stories, recite poems and lead other classroom activities designed to make her new class feel comfortable.
But Moody's students weren't the only ones facing a fresh set of circumstances at the outset of the Cherry Creek School District's traditional school calendar on Monday. It was Moody's official first day as a teacher in the district. She had her own reasons for needing some help to relax.
"I'm excited to tell my kids that we're in the same boat," Moody said as her students lined up outside of Meadow Point in the last moments before the first bell sounded. "I am nervous, but it's nerves mixed with excitement."
That mix of tension, excitement and optimism seemed to sum up the mood of most of the students, parents, teachers and staff who milled in front of the school before the official kickoff of classes. Kids gathered in groups on the playground, and teachers held up signs bearing their names in neatly printed block letters. Parents offered last-minute words of advice and comfort before students lined up next to their new teacher and classmates. Finally, they shuffled into the building.
"It's a little bittersweet, but it's also exciting for them. They love school," said Britton Dinsmore, father of first-grader Elia and preschooler Gage. "They get to get back into the swing of things and see their friends."
It was the beginning of the second year at Meadow Point for the Dinsmore family. Britton and mother Bri Dinsmore moved from Westminster to Aurora specifically to send their children to a school in the Cherry Creek School District.
"We specifically moved to this district about three years ago," Bri Dinsmore said. "We wanted our kids to go to public school, but we wanted them to go to the best public school we could find."
Meadow Point was the answer for the family. In less than two years, it's already become the quintessential neighborhood school for the clan. Bri and Britton added that they'd already met and mingled with Meadow Point teachers and staff during a back-to-school night. That gave the official first-day drop-off the feel of a community ceremony, a rite of passage celebrated with friends and neighbors.
Meadow Point Principal Tom McDowell worked hard to foster that kind of mood before the official start of classes. Sporting a wide smile and a tie speckled with images of Mickey Mouse, McDowell circulated among hallways and offices, helping latecomers find their classrooms and answering questions about pick-up time. His first morning announcement of the year included a quote from poet Maya Angelou regarding the promise of fresh starts. "Each new hour holds new chances for new beginnings," he read over the school's loudspeaker system.
McDowell, who started his second year as Meadow Point principal this week, said that message summed up his mood at the outset of the 2014-15 year. He saw potential and possibility for the entire Meadow Point community, from the parents who'll participate in family literacy programs to new teachers like Moody.
"What makes education so special to me is the idea that you get a new beginning," McDowell said from his office near the front of the school. On a back wall hung a portrait of Walt Disney. The vague outline of the Disneyland amusement park served as the image's backdrop, along with the quote, "It's kind of fun to do the impossible."
It may have been the beginning of McDowell's second year as principal after a longer stint in public education, but the fresh impact of the first day wasn't lost on him.
"The butterflies never fully go away on the first day," McDowell said. "It's such an opportunity to get the year started off right."
Moody saw that same kind of potential as first-graders gathered around her on the playground before the bell. A native of California, Moody served as a PERA in the district last year and specifically looked for a post at Meadow Point Elementary. The school's diversity particularly appealed to Moody, who wanted to find a building where she could make a difference.
"I was really interested in working at a Title 1 school and helping support that community and those students," Moody said.
That being said, she added, she'd still take some deep breaths to deal with the nerves that come with the beginning of any new adventure. Luckily, a member of Moody's 2014-15 class of first-graders was on hand to offer immediate moral support; Moody didn't need to be nervous, the little girl explained, because she had a bright smile on her face and she seemed "very happy."
-- Posted Aug. 18, 2014