On the first day of every new school year, New York City teacher Jarod Wunneburger looks forward to the “crazy rush of energy from all the students” as they settle into new classrooms, “eager, excited and anxious about the year ahead.” For Indianapolis teacher Phoebe Duvall, there’s “something so simple and joyous” about seeing her students arrive and hearing them share stories about themselves and their summer vacations. New Orleans teacher Kaitlyn Gaddis describes the first class, on the first day back at school, as the moment when “I feel at home again.”
In classrooms across the country, teachers feel the same sense of expectation as their students – and have their own sets of hopes and goals for what they hope to accomplish. With school bells ringing classes back into session, we asked teachers from across the country to tell us what they hope the new academic year brings.
What excites you most about the coming school year?
“I am excited to continue growing as an educator. In my experience, every academic year has been its own journey … I believe a really good teacher is one that assumes the role as a learner. There is always something you can do better, something you can learn more about. I find this extremely exciting.” – Phoebe Duvall, Fourth Grade Teacher, Paramount School of Excellence Charter School, Indianapolis
“Being able to make a difference in my students' lives by getting them college ready.” –Yahaira Garcia Sterling, Fourth Grade Teacher, Girls Prep Lower East Side Elementary School, New York City
“I am so excited to give my students the opportunity to connect to their inner world, to know that what they experience matters, and to develop compassion for others from this connection to their hearts.” – Kelli Love, Mindfulness and Yoga Teacher, Girls Prep Bronx Elementary School, New York City
“I am teaching eighth grade science to our founding class at KIPP Academy of Innovation in East Los Angeles, who I taught as fifth graders, so the idea of being at the start and end of their KIPP journey and seeing them grow as students, people and scientists is very exciting. I’m excited to see how much they’ve grown. I’m excited to know them as the young adults that they’ve become.” – Emily Vogelsong, Eighth Grade Science Teacher, KIPP Academy of Innovation, Los Angeles
“I'm ecstatic to be back in the classroom. After a couple of years of big picture thinking as an administrator, I'm ready to go back to where I started: convincing my students that yes, they can be a ‘math person.’ Math has a PR issue, and I'm a one-man agency out to convince my students otherwise, one problem at a time.” – Jarod Wunneburger, Seventh Grade Math Teacher, New York City Charter School of the Arts
“New beginnings and projects are always exciting for me. I take each year as a blank slate ready for challenges, discovery and reinventing the way I teach and create bonds with my students.” – Claudia Fitzwater, Kindergarten-Fifth Grade Teacher, Drew Charter School, Atlanta
Each year I teach, I learn more and more from the mistakes I come across the previous years! Teaching is all about recognizing how hard the profession is, and always being able to come back stronger and better prepared for the most important people...your students! I love the fact that I can come back each year with more experience and better ideas. It feels great to start the year with a stronger culture and more refined vision of what I want in my class.” – Katherine Brysh, Kindergarten Teacher, Brooke Charter Schools, Boston
“What's most exciting is the idea that both I and my students will embark on an amazing adventure together. This adventure will have opportunities for exploration of new content and self-discovery.” – Noelia Rodriguez, Third Grade Teacher, Girls Prep Bronx Elementary School, New York City
What are you most looking forward to on the first day of school with students?
“In high school? The first smile they crack as the ‘too-cool-for-school’ starts to melt off their faces.” – Kaitlyn Gaddis, Founding Teacher, Livingston Collegiate Academy, New Orleans
“The first day is so full of possibilities, both for them and for me. You only get one shot at first impressions, so right away I aim to set a tone of a warm but firm solutions-oriented math classroom.” – Jarod Wunneburger
“I am looking forward to seeing my students’ sweet faces and hearing their stories ... The first day is my moment to form a connection with them – a connection that will hopefully be rooted in trust, love and appreciation for one another … I have a story to tell and they do too. The first day is when I get to hear about them.” – Phoebe Duvall
“Seeing their smiles as they walk in and seeing how they have changed.” – Fred Salamone, Third and Fourth Grade Science Teacher, Boys Prep Bronx Elementary School, New York City
“I am most looking forward to simply meeting my students! From day 1 to day 180, we become a family. My students quickly become ‘my kids’ and I get accidentally but lovingly referred to as anything from mom to aunt to grandma. For me, day 1 is the start of that family and I could not be more excited to meet the kids that will be a part of it.” – Shivani Goyal, Kindergarten Teacher, Clarence Farrington Elementary School, Indianapolis
“I am most looking forward to welcoming my students back with a big hug, listening to how they are feeling and reminding them they have a warm and joyful place to learn every day.” – Kelli Love
“I am always nervous about the first day back to school because it sets the tone for the year. You want to be positive, but also have incredibly high expectations. There are routines and procedures to teach and practice and you want to be as consistent as you possibly can. These thoughts are always at the forefront of my mind until the second the students come in the building. At that point, I just get excited and remember why I do what I do...the kids!” – Katherine Brysh
Finish this sentence: “When the first class starts on the first day back to school, I ...
“… want to tell the students how privileged I am to be there with them on such an important and special day. I want to show and tell them about all the time, work and love that has gone into their arrival. I want to make sure they feel special because they are special.” – Ellison Sosa, Teacher Resident, Ogden Elementary School, San Antonio
“… will be a beacon of light to my students by greeting them and providing an encouraging word in a restorative circle.” – Jerri Taylor, Counselor, Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science, Washington, D.C.
“… will be smiling from ear to ear.” – Jennifer Haggerty, Second Grade Special Education Teacher, Girls Prep Bronx Elementary, New York City
“… want my students to know 2 things: 1) They are loved and, 2) we are going to work incredibly hard this year to grow our brains.” – Joshua Martinez, Fourth Grade Teacher, KIPP Raices Academy, East Los Angeles
Finish this sentence: “By the end of the school year, I hope my students ...
“… surpass every single goal they set at the beginning of the year. I want them to, ‘shoot for the moon and hit the stars.’ But most of all I want to be there to tell them, ‘I always knew you could.’” – Ellison Sosa
“… know that any goal that they set is attainable and that they are jewels and I will always be here to help them shine.” – Jerri Taylor
“… recognize that hard work is the key to success and that mistakes happen, but the thing that matters is learning from them.” – Miryam Gonzalez, Teacher Resident, Ogden Elementary School, San Antonio
“… will be empowered to advocate for themselves as learners and as young women in their educational career, in their neighborhoods and at home and truly believe that they can achieve great things.” – Noelia Rodriquez, English and Language Arts Teacher, Girls Prep Bronx Elementary School, New York City
“… feel confident that they can, indeed, change the world." – Yahaira Garcia Sterling, Fourth Grade English Language Arts Teacher, Girls Prep Lower East Side Elementary School, New York City
“… will remember the gains they have made.” – Jennifer Haggerty
“… can independently construct a scientific argument with thoughtful reasoning. I also hope my students can advocate for themselves and their futures, feel like agents of change in their communities, and have a strong sense of identity.” – Emily Vogelsong
“... understand how much they've grown this year academically and emotionally. ...know they can meet the high bars that are set for them with hard work and advocating for their own learning needs.” – Joshua Martinez
“… know and can articulate the unique and talented people they are and the world-changing people we need them to become, and that they have skills and habits to propel them toward life-long success and independence.” – Kaitlyn Gaddis
“… feel proud of their achievements are are willing to take risks and tackle challenges.” – Katherine Brysh
“… are completely in awe of their own possibility, their larger hearts and minds, and that, yes, they are in fact a ‘math person.’" – Jarod Wunneberger
This is the first in a three-part back-to-school series celebrating America’s teachers.