A number of school districts around the metro begin classes Tuesday morning, and the new year comes with some firsts.
As Ralston's K-6th graders, 7th and 9th graders head back to school Tuesday, the rest Wednesday, many will already know their teachers. A home visit program which began as a pilot last year, with 20 teacher volunteers, has expanded throughout the entire district this year.
All teachers reached out to all of their incoming students, to try and arrange meetings within their homes this past summer. "Each visit was about 15 or 20 minutes," said John Loterbour, a first grade teacher with Meadows Elementary. "I enjoyed meeting with the families."
Kindergarten teacher Katie Rasgorshek was able to meet with almost half of her students and their families. The others, she was quick to point out, were quite receptive but had scheduling conflicts like vacations.
"It's a totally different view of the child and you get to see where they're coming from," she said. "You get a more holistic picture of them and their family. And I feel like, coming in, the fear, the anxieties are going to be calmed a little bit more."
Meeting with teenagers was a bit different, said Ralston High's Debbie Ziegler, a health education teacher.
"[They were] maybe a bit shy at first, like, 'Oh my gosh, my teacher's in my house.' But they warmed up quickly," she said.
The initial jitters went both ways. "At first, you know, I think we were a little anxious about how this all would work. But it turned out to be a great experience."
The home visits, Ziegler pointed out, take on added significance with adolescents who may be struggling with heavier issues. "So there's at least one person in the building they can go to and feel comfortable with right off the bat."
Rasgorshek added that all too often parents' first dealings with teachers are because of something negative that happened at school. This alleviates that. "We get off on the right foot," she said.