With creative games and motivational speech, Killeen school principals welcomed back teachers this week for final preparations for a new school year.
At Palo Alto Middle School, where principal Matt Widacki always chooses a theme for the year, teachers returned to school Monday dressed as superheroes and described their super-teaching powers.
With the top half of his head covered by a star-spangled mask, Widacki welcomed his staff as Captain Patriot, which is also the school mascot.
With all the staff members seated in the cafeteria, each group took turns introducing themselves by academic department. While some adapted familiar comic book heroes, others came up with their own academic-based personality. The eighth-grade math teachers, dressed in puffy ballerina frill, called themselves Charlie’s Angles, named Cooperative Compass, Helpful Handsquare and Prepared Protractor.
Widacki said he typically reveals his theme in the middle of the summer to give staff members time to consider ways to incorporate it into the classroom. This year, many teachers worked together to come up with clever superhero activity.
Part of the rationale is fun, but there’s broader purpose in the capes, costumes and metaphors.
The principal said he would use the theme throughout the school year and hoped teachers would extend the ideas to motivate students to give a super effort.
The Palo Alto cafeteria looked more like a superhero convention than a first-day teacher meeting and teachers appreciated the efforts.
Bellaire Elementary School Principal David House also started the week off with activity to build cohesion.
Teachers and other staff members ran relays on long wooden skis, passed a hoop from person-to-person while holding hands and tossed a ball to one another to learn names.
Thirteen of the 41 teachers at Bellaire are new to the school this year, so personal introductions were in order.
“It’s all about team building,” House said. “The premise is we achieve more together than as individuals and we want to model that to students.”
Having fun and valuing one another works to build relationships and that uplifting setting, the principal said, is a laboratory for learning and growing through the year.
“At first some (teachers) are intimidated and they fear failure,” House said. “Then they laugh at each other. They see others fail and get encouraged and they see it’s OK to make mistakes. That’s how you learn.”
Throughout this first week back, teachers are gathering for a variety of training in day-to-day procedures, as well as “job-alike” sessions with colleagues across their campus or district.
Thursday is KISD’s annual Meet the Teacher day where families are urged to visit their child’s school from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday is the long-awaited first day of school.