Classrooms are taking shape across Scottsbluff as teachers prepare their lessons and bulletin boards for the upcoming school year. While the district does not welcome students back until Thursday, Aug. 18, teachers will be busy throughout the coming weeks getting ready for the 2022-23 year.
Anne Schmall, a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Scottsbluff High School, and Kristen Juelfs, a third grade teacher at Westmoor Elementary, have been busy preparing their classrooms.
Schmall returned to her classroom Thursday to continue working on bulletin boards, taking inspiration from the classes she teaches.
“I don’t want it to be so blank or bare that it feels institutional, but I also don’t want it to be so full of stuff that they are overwhelmed or distracted,” she said. “There are usually a few quotes up that I believe to be important or inspiring, information related to Educators Rising and FCCLA and then resources for lessons I will be teaching like a poster about the stages of development in the first year of life or Maslow’s Hierarchy or the career wheel.”
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She is in her 15th year of teaching and third year at SHS. She created a list of tasks she needs to accomplish at the start of every year and updates it as she thinks of something that needs to be done. She also keeps a list on her phone and whiteboard.
“Then I start with the ‘easy’ stuff to get motivated and in the back-to-school mindset,” Schmall said. “My number one priority is to get my room physically ready, get things out of storage and get stuff up on the walls. Once the physical space is prepared, I feel better and energized to work on the other stuff.”
Her next priorities are setting up her Google classrooms, calendars and updating the class documents and website. She will teach human growth and development, exploring education, best practices in education, introduction to human sciences and education, family supports and intervention, careers in human services, child development and field experience in education.
“Getting ready to go back to school is always exciting, a little overwhelming, and exhausting,” Schmall said. “I believe that teachers want to create a physical space that is warm and welcoming for all of their students. It provides the best possible learning environment while also sharing part of the teacher’s personality and the subjects that they teach.”
Juelfs also has a routine when she returns from summer break where she thinks through what she wants the upcoming school year to look like and how setting up her room will support that effort. She is in her tenth year teaching, but her third year teaching in Scottsbluff. She previously taught in Colorado.
At Westmoor Elementary, the school staff selects a theme for the year, which Juelfs said is exciting every year.
“This year it’s Launch into Learning and it’s all about space,” she said. “Our theme is space, so I found some fun, different things to brighten things up and change the classroom.”
She was excited about the theme as it ties into some of the third grade curriculum.
“One of our modules for our Wit and Wisdom curriculum is space for third grade,” she said. “It’s going to be nice to have that tie in this year when we get to that in the second quarter.”
Students’ name tags on their desks and lockers will have a space theme as well as bulletin boards throughout the classroom.
“I’m most excited this year about getting to meet the new kids,” Juelfs said. “That first week is always fun to see their personalities and get to know them, even across the grade level because my co-teachers and I will do activities together.”
In addition to preparing for her classes, Schmall also works on plans for the two career and technical student organizations she advises, Educators Rising and FCCLA. She has even recruited some help from students.
“I have three large bulletin boards in my classroom and after my first year here I recognized that my future educators’ students love to make bulletin boards so I recruited several to make bulletin boards for the next year and then covered them up to protect them over the summer,” she said. “When I returned in the fall all I had to do was uncover the boards and they were ready for students.”
This year, Schmall saved one board for her to design as a chance to be creative and put her spin on the start of the year.
“I find that as I start to take things out of cupboards or pull up rosters and lesson plans I get excited to start teaching the classes and seeing the students — all of the things that I do really help me to get mentally prepared for the upcoming school year.”
While Scottsbluff Public Schools teachers are busy setting up their classrooms, they are also busy reviewing state standards, updating lesson plans, syllabi and district policies to build on the successes and grow from the struggles from the previous school year.
“Could you use a different classroom layout for seating, and organizing of your supplies, maybe you want to have different classroom rules to address behavior,” Schmall said. “All of these things need to be determined and put into place prior to students arriving so you start the year introducing them to kids on day one.”
Juelfs likes to have a focus wall in her classroom so students can look at that wall to see what topics they will learn. She also hopes her classroom is a welcoming environment.
“I’ve been preparing my room at the moment until we get our class list next week,” she said. “Then I will start getting material ready for individual students.”
With a lot of learning ahead, the teachers are making preparations for another successful school year.