08/26/13 — Ready, set, learn

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Ready, set, learn

By Phyllis Moore and Matt Caulder
Published in News on August 26, 2013 1:46 PM

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Jada Higdon, 5, smiles at Brenda McClary, her kindergarten teacher at Tommy's Road Elementary, during the first day of school today. Jada and her classmates drew pictures of themselves as they waited for the bell to ring to start class. In preparation for her big debut, Jada picked out not only a special outfit, but special glasses as well.

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First-grader Tazavion Patterson walks down the hall at Carver Heights Elementary School this morning looking for his room. Tazavion found first-grade teacher Christine Smith who helped him get to his classroom.

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Classes at Dillard Middle School actually started last Thursday, but Monday morning there were still some bugs to be worked out including the trick to operating a combination lock. Rashad Hinnant, center, the school's success coach, gives pointers to sixth-graders Jaylin Hamilton, left, and Hakem Moses, right.

Jada Higdon couldn't wait to ride the bus for her first day of school.

"She woke us up -- 'Time for school!' -- at 5:30 in the morning," her mom, Sherry Higdon, said.

At 7:03, the bus arrived and as soon as Jada boarded, Mrs. Higdon headed straight for Tommy's Road Elementary School to await her arrival.

"I think that's it!" she said as the big yellow bus pulled into the school lot. "I want to jump up and down. But I won't embarrass her too much."

She positioned herself closer as the bus came to a stop, and got her iPhone ready to capture the moment her child exited the vehicle.

Then Jada emerged -- wearing a multi-colored sweater, jeans and white Sketchers and pink and black glasses she got from Claire's to accent her first-day outfit, her mom said.

Even though she had been to day care, school is still a novel idea for the kindergartner, who wasn't quite sure what her favorite subject might be.

"She always says 'lunch,'" said her mom. "I'm like, 'Jada, that's not a subject.'"

In the school lobby, Lynn Smith was trying to take some last-minute pictures of his daughter's first day of first grade. Cianna Smith, 6, was seated nearby with her mother, Cynthia.

"Oh, man, seems like it's going by fast, seeing her grow up," he said. "She was ready to go. She was excited about going."

Nickie Warrick, waiting nearby with son, Landon, 8, said she had no problem getting the second-grader in gear for the day ahead.

"He jumped right out of bed," she said.

Later in the week, she'll get to do it again, as her younger son, Chase, starts kindergarten.

"That may be a different story," she said with a smile.

First-grader Sabria Artis, accompanied by mom, Erica Artis, opened up her book bag to reveal an array of school supplies -- eraser and pencils, folders and notebooks, crayons and markers.

"Oooohhh, I like to paint," she said excitedly.

"What kind of teacher did you say you wanted?" Principal Wendy Hooks asked.

"A young teacher," Sabria replied. "I don't want no old teacher. And not a hard one."

When she found out she would be in Miss Musgrave's class, she seemed satisfied.

Deana Raynor was with daughter Niah Raynor, 8, a third-grader.

"We got up extra early," she said. "I just decided to bring her because it's the first day."

In Ms. McClary's kindergarten class, where Jada is a student, Omatayo Ayers gave her son, Ayden Ayers, a good-bye kiss and wished him a good day.

"I think I'm more nervous than him," she said. "Him being independent is a very big thing.

"He was excited. No problem. He was ready to go. He had his book bag on."

As the bell rang to signal the official start to the day, Ms. McClary gave students instructions about the blank piece of paper before each of them.

"We're going to draw some pictures of ourselves," she said. "And then after the announcements we're going to go around the school so I can show you where everything is."

At Carver Heights Elementary School, first-grader Oscar Thompson had already set a goal.

"I'm going to learn how to write and to read and learn everything I know," he said.

First-day jitters are not just for kids.

"Every year I get butterflies. I'm just as nervous as the kids are," first-grade teacher Ashley Lemaster said.

And they get excited about learning, too -- especially if it is their first day in a new spot, too.

Hallie Hulse is a first-grade teacher this year, after spending last year in special education at the middle school level.

"The elementary kids still like to hug and show affection, and I'm a very huggy person, so it's nice," she said.

At Dillard Middle School, where classes actually started last Thursday, Principal Sonja Emerson said it's been like they have had two openings this year.

"The staff are excited. We have a new theme for this year -- Teamwork, it's the gift that keeps on giving," she said. "We are going back to a middle school philosophy this year, with team names and logos and clubs. Students are excited to be able to be in a club."

Business/technology teacher Brenda Elam-Coney is optimistic about the upcoming school year.

"We're gonna have fun and achieve a mastery level of academic processes, but we're gonna have fun first," she said.

Student JaQuon Mickens admitted to being nervous about entering sixth grade while excited about taking on new school projects.

Classmate Ya'niya Butler-Jones said, "I'm excited to be meeting all my teachers. I haven't had any homework yet. I asked for some. I wanted something to do at home. I missed having lots of things to do."

Aniyah Yelverton reserved comment, saying she isn't sure yet how she feels about returning to school but looks forward to staying on the honor roll in sixth grade.

And Tamika Alexander warned her son's teacher, Ms. Musgrave, that her son might be "a handful" as she dropped him off before heading to find her daughter's class. She said she was very happy to have her children back in school so they could "get some more learning in them."