Closing out the summer and ushering in a new school year, thousands of families stepped into their children’s classrooms Thursday to meet the teacher.
Across the Killeen Independent School District, in every elementary school and middle school, teachers, administrators and other staff members rolled out a huge welcome to new and returning students.
Monday is the first day of school in Killeen ISD.
Harker Heights Elementary School Principal Carolyn Dugger took up a post just inside the school building, where she could see everyone coming in — and there were a lot.
“It’s wonderful to have everyone back in the building,” she said. “A lot are returning and some are new. We’re excited to have them all.”
At the front door and other gathering points, Harker Heights High School Crimson Belles dance team members welcomed families into the building and handed out information.
In each classroom, teachers engaged with parents, talking through daily start and dismissal procedures, answering questions and putting minds at ease. Several teachers conducted scavenger hunts for students and took photos to document the day.
“This is my school family,” said Ghazala Khan, who accompanied her pre-kindergarten and fourth-grade sons to Harker Heights Elementary School. “Mrs. Dugger is like a family member to us.”
Similar excitement prevailed all over Killeen ISD, which stretches from Nolanville, Harker Heights and Killeen across Fort Hood.
At Pershing Park Elementary School in Killeen, in several classes students held up large, decorated frames as their proud parents took photos.
“I like that I am able to touch base with parents so they can feel more secure in this new environment,” said pre-kindergarten teacher Amanda Burch. “I love being a pre-K teacher because I feel like I can shape their minds and give them some of the first experiences in education.”
Eastern Hills Middle School in Harker Heights hosted its Panther Camp for incoming sixth-graders before welcoming the rest of the school’s students and parents.
Sixth-graders took part in team building, working in small groups to move team members across the gym. They also took part in a scavenger hunt using QR codes and made collages to represent themselves artistically.
Campus Instructional Specialist Dennise Wooden said the goal was simple. “We want them to have fun,” she said.
Assistant Principal Robert Burns said he and Wooden wanted to do something special for sixth-graders to integrate them into the middle school. “They all come from different elementary schools and we need them to work together,” Burns said.
Instead of just assigning lockers and making identification badges, Wooden said the students could benefit from walking around the school together. “We put them in random groups so they are with people they don’t know. We want to give them the tools to survive middle school.”
In the end, after the group activities, most of the sixth-graders were wearing their new purple Eastern Hills T-shirts.
“Meet the Teacher is the first step in building that crucial relationship with parents and students,” said Pershing Park fifth-grade teacher Emily LeGrande. “It is awesome to see those students again that have been here in prior years. It’s like a coming home for them.”
“I want the students to know that this is a safe environment and that it is ok to make mistakes,” Pershing Park fifth-grade teacher Bethany Ragsdell said. “I really want to make that role-model impact so that my students can look back years from now and think positively about me as their teacher.”