Atmosphere is upbeat on teacher move-in day

Volunteers and teachers were busy on teacher move-in day last week at Cypress Creek Middle High School.

Pasco County School Board members, the superintendent of schools, Rotary Club members, members of The Greater Wesley Chamber of Commerce, the Pasco Education Foundation and other community volunteers joined in with teachers to help them get ready for Day 1 at the new school at 8701 Old Pasco Road in Wesley Chapel.

They hauled boxes from the parking lot.

Cypress Creek teacher Jenny Burton was busy last week, unpacking and storing supplies for her middle school art classes. She is thrilled with both the size of her classroom and the supplies she has to work with. (B.C. Manion)

They pushed carts down corridors filled with classroom stuff.

They stood in line, awaiting the elevator to carry their load to the second floor.

They unpacked boxes. Put together bookcases. They stamped books and put away supplies.

Some teachers began decorating the walls in their classrooms, adding their personal touch.

They were working, but there was a friendly banter. The atmosphere was upbeat, with an undeniable sense of excitement in the air.

Jenny Burton, a middle school art teacher, is thrilled to be teaching at Cypress Creek.

“This is like absolute heaven,” Burton said, as she organized her art supplies.

“I’ve never worked in a space like this before. I’ve worked in rooms that were a quarter of this size,” she said.

She’s also impressed by the supplies that have been provided for her class and can’t wait to begin working with her students to find out which materials they’ve used before, and which ones will be new to them.

Her next-door neighbor is Sara Connolly, a middle school social studies teacher.

First-year teacher Sara Connolly wants to bring her social studies lessons to life for her students. She’s already chosen a playlist for the first day of school, featuring music from different eras of American life.

“I want kids to realize that history is not just a book, and it’s not just someone standing up and lecturing to you, and memorizing a bunch of dates,” said Connolly, a first-year teacher, whose mother is a retired teacher and whose father teaches at Land O’ Lakes High School.

She’s been preparing for that first day.

“I already have a playlist set up of American historical music through the ages,” she said, noting the students will hear snippets of American Colonial music, the Civil War, the jazz age and other eras.

She’s also planning to have students break into teams on that day, to do a scavenger hunt in the classroom.

Burton and Connolly are already thinking about ways the two of them can collaborate to do cross-curricular lessons.

Meanwhile, down the hall, Dani Sauerwein who teaches sixth-grade language arts is equally enthusiastic about the new school year.

“It’s always exciting for a new school year to start, but this is just a whole new level of excitement,” she said, noting she’s thrilled to be part of the team opening a new school.

“We’re trying to create a community,” Sauerwein said.

She also expressed gratitude for the volunteers who were at the school, helping teachers get set up for the new year.

“Honestly, I could not do it without them. This would have taken 10 times longer if it weren’t for everyone who came out to help,” she said.

The value of such volunteer efforts goes beyond the benefit of providing help with the physical labor, said Colleen Beaudoin, a school board member.

The interactions can help build community spirit and foster greater understanding, she said.

“A lot of community members want to help, but they don’t really know what’s needed,” said Beaudoin, who was there volunteering alongside her 14-year-old son, Bryce.

When members of the community spend time inside schools, they gain greater insights into what’s needed or desired, and they can help school personnel connect with resources available through businesses or organizations, Beaudoin said.

“Sometimes, I think, that is that missing link — that connection,” the school board member said.

Published August 2, 2017

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