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Students, teachers prep for year
Liberty Co. School System, FPCA open houses today
web 0803 Back to school 2
A segment of the alphabet posted in Sharon Taylor's classroom serves as a visual aid for students. Taylor is a second-grade teacher at Jordye Bacon. - photo by Danielle Hipps

FPCA open house

• 3-6 p.m. today
• First day of school: Thursday
• Preschool through third grade hours: 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
• Fourth and fifth: 8 a.m.-3:10 p.m.
• Sixth through 12th: 8 a.m.-3:20 p.m.

Liberty County schools open house

• 11 a.m. today for pre-K
• 3-6 p.m. today for K-12 at each school
• First day of school: Thursday
• Elementary hours: 7:40 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
• Middle and high school hours: 8:20 a.m.-3:25 p.m.

Today, Liberty County students will meet their teachers, scout out their classrooms and learn whether they’ll have friends as classmates when they begin the 2011-12 school year Thursday.

From 3-6 p.m., Liberty County’s K-12 schools will be open to parents and students, offering them a chance to get acquainted with teachers, campuses and classrooms. The pre-K center will host its open house at 11 a.m.

One parent, Sharon Taylor, said she and her daughter, an incoming freshman at Bradwell Institute, are eager to start the school year and return to a structured routine.

Taylor also is a second-grade teacher at Jordye Bacon Elementary. She has been hard at work this week, decorating her classroom, planning ice-breaker activities and working with other teachers to develop curriculum maps that will keep each grade’s classes on the same pace.

“You have to get prepared fast because you want to have stuff ready when they get here,” she said. “They walk in and they’re ready to go.”

Taylor’s students also are in for a small treat today — she allows them to choose their own seats, with the understanding that the seating chart can be adjusted if behavior issues arise.

The 27-year teaching veteran said that allowing students to choose their own seats gives them a sense of control and comfort during the beginning of the year, which is a time that typically calls for adjustments to new rooms, new teachers and new rules.

Taylor, like many educators, said teaching is rewarding because she gets to watch her students bloom into strong learners who take initiative.

“It’s kind of like teaching someone to ride a bike,” she said. “You hold their hand and release.”

Christine Moody, a second-grade teacher down the hall from Taylor, agrees.

“I’m excited because I get new babies,” Moody said.

Both teachers said that they will emphasize writing this year and enhance designated writing times with a focus on literature responses.

Also new this year is the “I Care” parent-involvement plan, a privately created curriculum that promotes parental involvement in their children’s education.

Two parent-involvement coordinators, Becky Busby from Frank Long Elementary and Lavonia LeCounte from Lyman Hall Elementary, will spearhead the local campaign.

LeCounte, Liberty County’s certified I Care facilitator, will set up a station at the Lyman Hall Elementary orientation to inform parents about the program, which launches in September.

Liberty County education officials historically have seen the need to increase parental involvement, she said.

“There’s a great need to be there for our children, because once the children see that you’re there and supporting them, they’re going to do their very best,” LeCounte said. “Parents make the difference.”

Each month, students and teachers will discuss a character-building word, and students will have at-home activities to perform with their parents that are related to the word. Parents will fill out feedback forms to verify that they are going over the curriculum at home.

“In the past, what we measured as parent involvement was just bringing people into the school,” she said. “This is a way for us to be able to tell how involved our parents are because of them having to work with their kids and returning their feedback forms.”

First Presbyterian Christian Academy, which begins school Thursday as well, also will have an open house from 3-6 p.m. today to acquaint students with their teachers and offer them a chance to learn more about extracurricular offerings, such as sports and arts programs.

Students returning to the private school, which serves more than 320 preschoolers through 12th-graders, will find a new head of school, Sammi Hester, and a renovated music building. 

Hester, who worked as a special-education coordinator for Snelson-Golden Middle School, has had her children enrolled in the school for five years. While pursuing a graduate degree in education leadership, she interned at FPCA.

Citizenship also is a focus this year at FPCA. Hester is implementing outreach programs that will benefit different community organizations every nine weeks. The first program will involve food drives for the Midway Food Bank, she said.

“I hope they learn that it’s not all about self, that it’s about giving back to the community,” she said.

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