JOPLIN, Mo. —
More than 7,000 Joplin Eagles started class Wednesday in what students and teachers alike called a great start to the school year.
Superintendent C.J. Huff continued the tradition of taking a picture with all kindergartners, the class of 2025. He said he believes he took his 3,000th picture with a kindergartner in Joplin.
“If I had one wish for every kindergartner in our schools, it’s that they go through their school career giving their very best, that they take care of one another, they support one another, and that when they graduate from high school, they go on to do great, amazing things,” Huff said during his visit Wednesday to Cecil Floyd Elementary School.
“We have a lot of programming that’s going into place right now at the high school level and the middle school level that’s being put in place for this group of kindergartners.
“This is a digital age, and these are digital kids. They don’t even know what a rotary phone is. Trying to develop an educational system that meets the needs of these kids while providing basic skills and higher level skills related to processing and researching and assimilating information is going to be one of the bigger challenges over the next 10 years.”
All kindergartners received a new book on the first day of class through the United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas, and Gunlock Heating and Air’s partnership with Reach a Child, a group that works to “put smiles on the faces of children in crisis across America through the power of books,” according to its website.
Students at North Middle School buzzed through the halls between periods trying to find their next class in what can be an especially daunting task for sixth-graders who are new to middle school. The district put on a Sixth-Grade Academy a few weeks ago to help students learn the expectations of middle school and things like locker combinations.
“Kids are getting schedules and going to their lockers and learning all the procedures of the school,” said Principal Brian Eggleston. “We spend a lot of time this first week and a half teaching kids how to get to classes and the things to do well in school and all of our expectations.”
The school district has started implementing its career pathway curriculum that allows students to begin to focus on being college-ready and career-ready when they graduate. Students start to think about possible careers in middle school by first determining what they like in sixth grade, and then exploring options in seventh and eighth grades, Eggleston said.
Teachers were excited for the year to start, with many of them citing more time to plan for this school year than last, when the district was rushed to find temporary buildings because of the May 2011 tornado.
“We have been so excited to get the kids back in the building,” said Brenda Clark, sixth-grade science teacher at North. “For the first summer in four years, we feel like we’ve had a summer — we’ve been able to plan and prepare. We’re ready to go. We’ve got a great bunch of students coming in. Big plans for having a super great year.”
Clark said that with the implementation of career pathways, she tries to get students interested in learning about careers in science.
“I call that rigor and relevance,” she said. “A kid learns best if there is some relevance to them, tying to the real world.”
Eighth-grader Shea Schrader said she was happy to see friends and even some “cool teachers.”
“I like the environment,” she said. “Everyone is just so nice about everything. Of course there’s still bullying and stuff that goes on, but for the most part, people are really nice.”