Students use Friday before classes to prepare for school

Teachers, students meet to shake the jitters of a new school year

August 27, 2010|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

Kendall Spears stood hesitantly at the door of Hampstead Hill Academy on Friday morning, watching as hundreds of students made their way into the building with their parents and friends. But as soon as Kendall's new principal, Matt Hornbeck, said, "Welcome," the 7-year-old was leading his mother into the building without trepidation.

"This is my new school," Kendall declared, walking confidently through crowds of his peers toward his new classroom.

He was among hundreds of students who spent the last Friday of summer getting acquainted with their new school, new lockers and new teachers at Hampstead Hill's Meet Your Teacher Day. The public charter school in Patterson Park opens its doors to families the Friday before school starts every year for the event. This year, the Oriole Bird was also on hand to welcome students.

"It's just great to get the jitters out on the Friday before school starts — for everybody," Hornbeck said, as he greeted by name nearly every student who filed into the school. The popular and diverse school will welcome a record 625 students this year.

Kendall's mother, Kanika Spears, said it was especially important to take advantage of the day, as Kendall had spent two years on the school's waiting list. "I didn't want him to go to just any school," she said. "But, I want him to feel comfortable."

Kendall's comfort came quickly as he found his colorful nametag on his new desk and wandered through his new classroom, stopping to run his hand across computer screens. His first question to his new teacher was, "Can we turn them on?"

Teachers were also excited to welcome students, and some were embarking on new journeys as well.

"This is new to me, too, so we're going to jump right in together," said Kendall's teacher, Colleen Hicks. She taught kindergarten at the school for eight years, but it will be the first time she teaches first grade. Kendall's mother said she felt that Kendall and Hicks could "grow together."

Down the hallway, sixth-grader Lawren Burney was bouncing with anticipation to meet her new teacher. The 11-year-old said she is excited about everything from cooking to music classes, and looked forward to the role her new teachers would play in her studies.

"Sometimes [a teacher] can be fun, but it's more about learning than having fun," Lawren said — an insight that brought her mother to tears.

"My children surprise me all the time," said Nicole Burney. "This is just an excellent school."

Among Lawren's new sixth-grade teachers is Andrew Chapin, a first-year Teach for America teacher, who came to Baltimore from Texas.

He's been studying students' names in preparation for his world history and English courses, and said Friday he feels more at ease "finally putting some faces with some names."

Half his students had come by to meet him by halfway through the day, asking him the important questions, such as "When's lunch?" and "Do we still have recess?" he said.

"They're ready," Chapin said. "Now, I'm ready."

erica.green@baltsun.com.

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