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As we announced last spring, the 2021-22 school year at WSD has been designated as “The Year of Writing,” a year in which all students will have increased opportunities to develop and hone their writing skills — to communicate, reflect, tell stories, persuade, and think critically. The same emphasis on writing extends to all WSD personnel as well. This year, all staff are invited to reflect on their own school years and the things they remember most, beginning with Kindergarten (August) and ending with 8th grade (May). What follows is a sampling of short essays from the first two months, remembering Kindergarten and First Grade.

Michael Odle, First Grade Teacher

Kindergarten Round-Up was a blur of strawberry-themed activities and stickers
The first day began with a game of “motorcycle tag”
Then tragically ended when a 4th Grader stepped on a fuzzy caterpillar at pick-up
An experience 6 year-old Michael tearfully told to mom after school

Mixing colors into shaving cream and practicing our letters
Guided by Letter People, my favorite (to this day) is “Miss A”

My most joy was had with wanting to learn how to read on my own
All of which culminated in
Feeling the pride when I successfully read aloud my first book:
The Lady with the Alligator Purse

Christie Vanderhoof, Kindergarten Teacher

My best memories of kindergarten are not from when I was actually a kindergarten student. I remember kindergarten. I remember Mrs. Howell, I remember learning how to read and learning how to spell my last name. It was just kindergarten.

My aunt was a kindergarten teacher and to me her room was pure magic. I loved going to kindergarten with her, so much that I couldn’t wait to have a day off at my school so I could go and help her in her classroom. I wasn’t much older than her students, I was maybe in first grade the first time she took me to school with her, but I loved being her helper. I loved helping the kids in her class. I loved spending weekends with her outlining decorations for her classroom and cutting out her laminating. No matter what she was doing, teaching, creating lessons, or making decor, I wanted to be around her. She was amazing. She made everything look so easy. I wanted nothing more than to be her. I would have spent everyday at school with her if she would have let me. She was my greatest teacher. I loved kindergarten and became a kindergarten teacher because of her. She made teaching kindergarten magical, she elevated it to an art form. I miss her, but I keep her with me everytime I step into my classroom.

Kathleen Fisher, Business Office

My first day of Kindergarten was the opening day of my K-6 elementary school. I arrived fresh from my first ride on a school bus. EVERYthing was new, and I loved it all. I can still remember the new-things smell. It was almost like the magical fresh-from-summer smell that greeted us each fall but even better. And the things we did… We made butter, and dipped candles, and made fruit jam, and leaf rubbings. We experimented. We got our hands dirty. We were allowed to touch, to try. Everyday was a new adventure. I don’t remember learning letters and colors. My mom says I was already reading by the time I got to Kindergarten, but I remember those hands-on adventures. I still love science, creating, and learning new things; I still love a nap after school. Some things stay with you.

Nathan O’Bryant, Orchestra Teacher

My [kindergarten] teacher was Mrs. Goudy, who was a farmer and a teacher, with a very thick Utah accent. I think she probably emphasized the “H” sound in words, such as “white,” way too much, and my brothers will still joke about it today. Mrs. Goudy was a wonderful teacher, as all Kindergarten teachers are. I had a sense of excitement the first day, I did not cry, and I was so proud of anything I learned that day and thereafter.

Before too long, I had a girlfriend named Sarah Ward who had long curly brown hair and loved horses. Phillip Baker was another kid who sat near us on the floor (we each had a puppy dog mat with our name on it), and he would always dare us to kiss, so we did, on the lips, but it was not very daring at that time, and far less scary than adult dating!

Things came naturally then, with encouragement from every direction, mom, siblings, aunts, teachers, etc. It made me wonder what happened once I started having zits in middle school, was I not as cute anymore? I wonder how much different our Kindergarten self is from who we are today.

Jessica Hunsaker, MS Math Teacher

My first grade teacher was named Ms. Readberger. It was her first year teaching. In an effort to challenge the high kids, she gave them a project to design and make a prototype robot to solve a problem. She called the kids up to her desk and gave them the directions for the special assignment. I waited and waited for my name to be called. She never called me. I went home and cried on the floor of my parent’s bathroom. I can still feel the cool tiles on my wet tears. My mom came upstairs and found me. She called the teacher and made her give me the project the next day. My robot was a ballerina that taught people how to dance. I gave the presentation to the class and got a good grade. I never forgave Ms. Readberger. From that point on, I felt she thought I was dumb and made it my mission to make her regret it. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Thompson, recommended me for the GATE program. I made sure to go back to Mrs. Readberger and rub it in her face. I felt immense joy. Second grade Jessica was petty.

Chris McIntosh, 5th Grade Teacher

Through the car’s windshield, I remember watching my mother hugging my father. It was raining lightly with dark gray clouds hanging low over the military hangar. Her back was toward me, and my father had his arms wrapped tightly around her, his head buried in her hair. Even at a young age, I knew there was something important going on.

A moment later, my father stepped back, kissed her hand, and turned away. He slung his duffle bag over his shoulder and walked toward the hangar. My mother placed her hands over her face. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I saw her shoulders convulsing. She stood there in the rain for a long time.

Eventually, she turned around and came back to the car.

“Mommy, are you okay?”

“Yes, now wave ‘bye to your dad.”

I turned to look, but he was already gone.

“Where’s he going?”

“He’ll be back in a year. You should be proud of him because he’s serving our country.”

We drove the rest of the way home in silence.

For weeks afterward, I would catch my mom crying at different times throughout the day and often at night.

Thus started my first grade year in school.

Steve Williams, Executive Director

Ms. Tanneman. My first grade teacher. She was medium-sized, with short, black hair. Her eyebrows were thick and black as well. She wore tall white go-go boots to class some days, and our young first-grade eyes were drawn to them like moths to a flame. This was 1972 in Brisbane, Australia, so women were wearing mini-skirts and mini-dresses everywhere. Even the school teachers. Hers was a big-collared dress drenched in flowers, green, orange, and yellow. Ms. Tanneman, in her flowered ensemble, would step out on the veranda (porch) of our classroom each morning and quietly smoke a cigarette. While we were eating our little kid snacks of carrots, raisins, and celery, she would be taking a long drag on her cigarette and gazing off into the distance, probably imagining some peaceful paradise away from a noisy class of first graders.

Alethea Mallia, General Music Teacher

One big memory I have from first grade was getting caught stealing money from a classmate. My teacher Mrs. Michaelson was reading us a story. I noticed a dollar on my friend Mary’s desk. I knew a dollar would buy me four cookies in the lunchroom. As my teacher was reading, I knew she was too distracted to see me take the dollar. I snuck away from the group and took it.

After the story was finished and we were lining up for lunch, I noticed my friend Mary was very upset and started crying. She noticed her dollar for lunch was missing. The teacher asked if anyone knew where her money went. At first I didn’t say anything. I really wanted those cookies. My teacher came up to me and said “I saw you take the money, you should return it to your friend.” I was embarrassed at being caught and immediately felt shame. I went up to Mary and said “I found your dollar.” She gave me a huge hug and said “Thank you so much.”

I learned not to steal that day. I was so embarrassed. I have never stolen anything since then (except for my husband’s heart). I remember Mrs. Michaelson being the best teacher. She cared about all of us. She taught me so much. I also thought she was super fun because at the end of the year our entire class got to go to her house for a pool party. I remember thinking that was so cool.