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First Day Joy

Written by: Courtney Fisher

I have always loved the first day of school. Even now as a school district administrator, I still pick out an outfit worthy of “first days” and feel the butterflies of anticipation for what the new school year will bring. While no two days working in public education are ever the same, the first day of the school year is generally filled with joy to watch parents send their littles off into their new teacher’s care, greet new and returning learners, and reunite with friends and colleagues. 

That is why it makes so much sense that this school year's educational focus for the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25 is “Rejuvenating Classrooms and Cultivating Joy,” a focus that will be woven into the fabric of learning throughout the entire year. With that theme in mind, I sent out a districtwide request for first day stories with a question, “What brought you JOY today?” Based on the number of responses, it is clear that there was no shortage of first-day joy. For the full list of responses, please visit

Educators from Edahow Elementary School shared:
“Seeing students from previous years and how excited they were to see me and be at school. It made me excited to see them and be there as school as well.” Kyle Crawford, teacher

Educators from Ellis Elementary School shared:
“Having a 'first day' after learning our yearly focus on finding the joy has made all the difference.  My perspective changed and instead of thinking about all the hard that will come with this year, I am excited about the possibilities.”  Mandi Burrell, teacher

“As a ERR K-2nd teacher, I had many affectionate moments that brought me joy today; however, the most meaningful moments were watching students throughout the day jump right into routines and procedures that we practiced and established last year. They have all matured and grown so much!” Tonia Huber, teacher

Educators from Gate City Elementary School shared:
“I get joy out of seeing my class work together as a new team, helping each other, being kind, and sharing.  It also makes my day when former students smile and wave in passing or come by during recess to say hello.” Piper King, teacher

“At back to school night a boy came up to me and said, 'Mrs. Dobson, do you know my favorite color? It's green because green means go', then he proceeds to run fast to the other side of the room and back to me. Then he says 'I don't like red because it means stop'! I laughed and thought I'll be using red/green with this little babe!” Rachel Dobson, teacher

Educators from Greenacres Elementary School shared:
Greenacres is cultivating joy with our Hawaiian Shirt Fridays. Dr. Joel Wilson, principal

Educators from Indian Hills Elementary School shared:
“The smiles and excitement in each student's faces brought me joy!”  Deri Hall, teacher

“I love the first week!  The connection of old friends and then the new friends made.  The relief in a child's face when they know where to go or they recognize a friend from last year. The excitement in the air is palpable and infectious.  It just rubs off on anyone that's in the vicinity.” Bethany Coffin, paraprofessional

“We brought an upset and nervous 1st grade boy into his new classroom and 2 girls from his last year's Kindergarten class rushed up to him and yelled his name and showed their excitement that he was in their class.  You should have seen his grin!’ Heidi Smith, teacher

“I'm at a brand new school for the first time in 34 years!  We went out front to take our team picture and a little girl hanging out the window of her car yelled, ‘Hey Mrs. Jensen!’  It made me feel like I was going to be ok even at a new school!” Stacey Jensen, teacher

Educators from Jefferson Elementary School shared:
“It brought me joy to see the fourth graders' eager faces to finally be back in school and doing their morning routine. I made sure to take a moment to just watch them work quietly on a word search.” Careena Woods, teacher

Several things brought me joy:
*Meeting my new class
*Seeing/hearing their joy as they saw their friends for the first time since school got out
*Hearing my learners say their first day was AMAZING
*Being able to be at the same school as my own children and see them throughout the day 
Michelle Rogers, teacher

Educators from Lewis and Clark Elementary School shared:
“I was out on bus duty today after school.  When bus #16 pulled up, all the kids started chanting the bus driver's name.  She looked equally excited to see them too.” Emily Smith, developmental kindergarten teacher

Educators from Syringa Elementary School shared:
“It was joyful seeing our returning students run through our arch as the ISU Women's Basketball Team members and the Syringa staff danced to welcome everyone back for the school year. Shiny backpacks and outfits were abundant and parents smiled as their child ran through our arch. It reminded me of the ISU arch walk for freshmen and seniors- we made our own happiness to welcome our learners.” Rebecca Bullock, principal

“Seeing all the sweet smiles of the new little learners brings me joy. Some are nervous, some are excited and some are both! And of course the precious little gifts they bring make me happy! How cute is this picture?” Katie Tonks, teacher

“Mrs. Bullock had a fun balloon arch for all of the kids to walk through as they entered the playground, with music playing on the stereo outside, and herself and teachers and staff greeting the kids and their parents/families as they entered the school playground. She also had school staff guiding the children to the cafeteria for their morning breakfast. At our staff meeting earlier this week, on Monday morning, she also was playing "Happy by Wil Ferrell" on the stereo as the teachers joined her for the meeting! So much joy being spread at this school!” Janella Jones, paraprofessional

Educators from Tyhee Elementary School shared:
“What brought me joy was all the hugs I received today from my new learners and past learners. There is nothing better!” Kim Mcdowell, teacher

“I loved seeing my students from last year. Their smiles and hugs brightened my day!” Sandra Steffensen, teacher

“I was very nervous about taking on a new role in my school this year.  I received numerous messages from parents today after school telling me about how excited their kids were for me to be their teacher. This brought me JOY!”  Joni Bare, teacher

“At Tyhee Elementary we welcomed students back with Bannock County Sheriff's Department, Idaho Central Credit Union, North Bannock Fire Department, Ms. ShoBan, Idaho State Police and the ISU Women's Basketball Team. The excitement was contagious, it was so fun to have so much community support to welcome back our learners and their families.” Courtney Kent, community resource worker

“It brought me joy to see learners arriving at school and being greeted by first responders, ISU athletes, and ICCU employees. They all welcomed and engaged learners which cultivated so much joy at Tyhee on the first day back.” Jodi Prestwich, principal

“Having past students run up to me and give me a big hug and tell me all of the great things they did over the summer.” Danyiel Ward, teacher

Educators from Washington Elementary School shared:
“Being new to Washington Elementary this year, I loved meeting a whole school of learners at Back to School Night a few days ago.  As I helped supervise the playground on the first day of school, I suddenly heard ‘Hi, Mrs. B.!’ I turned to see an out of breath boy with a huge smile on his face. It brought me joy that a kiddo I had met one time remembered my name and was so excited to come say hi to me!” Amy Bare, teacher

Educators from Wilcox Elementary School shared:
“Today, a student that has had some struggles in previous years told me he couldn't wait to start learning because today was his best day ever!” Teresa Lewis, teacher

“What brought me joy was seeing how eager the learners were to be back at school, the excitement, the laughter, and the love!” Monique Gannon, teacher

“Something that brought me joy, was greeting the learners right off the bus! The joy on their faces as they see a familiar face ( me ) and getting all the first waves, high fives, fist bumps and hugs of the day! It sure made my day joyful seeing all their excitement of a new school year.” Jennifer Lamar, paraprofessional

Educators from Alameda Middle School shared:
“I saw a tremendous amount of confidence from a brand new seventh grader that was not there as a sixth grader. It was inspiring.” Lisa Hill, paraprofessional

“As a band teacher, I loved seeing many old faces return to class, plus many new ones! I was also excited at the fact that several brand new students to Alameda were comforted by realizing that the first day doesn't have to be perfect, and that's OK!”  Gary Pawelko, teacher

“One aspect of my first day back that brought me joy was seeing the excitement and growth in the students I had last year and am lucky enough to teach again this year. So many of them grew and changed over the summer and have come back to school with such joy and excitement! They made me so happy to be back in my classroom with them again!” Lyndsey Matthews, teacher

“I sat with a new 6th grader this morning who was feeling really anxious and overwhelmed being in middle school. We talked for a while until she felt confident enough to go inside. I later saw her in the hall and she smiled and yelled, ‘Mrs. Green! I'm feeling a lot better now!’” Bayleigh Green, teacher

Educators from Franklin Middle School shared:
“First, the applause I received from the student body when I was introduced during our morning assembly made my day. Second, Max (a learner) gave me a hug. He's the best!" Ernie Woods, Building Tech

"Seeing new and familiar faces!" Misti Foltz, attendance secretary

“The students stopping by have been so respectful!” Melissa Durham, principal's secretary

“Seeing a 6th grader succeed at opening a locker after a long endeavor in the learning pit!” Darcy Hale, assistant principal

“The energy in our gym from learners and staff brought me joy!” Patrick Vereecken, principal

"Having my cafeteria full of kids brought me joy today!" Bonita Bauer, cafeteria manager 

“My joy was enhanced by the smiling faces of learners from the past who stopped by my classroom purposely to check on me and say hello. No greater joy than seeing the ones that you love like your own children.” Dan Woods teacher 

“Seeing kids get excited to see me, a nobody in general life, but a literal rock star at school!”
Shayne Hughes, teacher

I am new to Franklin and I loved seeing so many learners excited to former teachers, friends, and staff! I felt super welcomed by the staff and many students were happy to meet me! FMS is even better than I remember when I was a student (It was amazing then too). Brings me sooooo much joy to be a part of the FMS Fam! Therese Bybee, teacher

Educators from Hawthorne Middle School shared:
“I had the 6th grade choir students sing on the first day instead of going over procedures.  They loved it and I loved it! No stress-just music and togetherness! It was so fun being together again.” Jessica Johnson, teacher

“The hugs, smiles, and ‘I love yous’ from my past students made my heart smile today!” Steffanie Akina, teacher

“I'm a middle school teacher. Today after class a student asked if they could give me a hug! Best first day ever!” Shelli Mullins, teacher

“What a joy to see the students come into the building and cheer for our school. They were happy and excited. I loved reconnecting with our learners who were returning and meeting the new incoming sixth graders.” Debbie Greco, assistant principal

Educators from Irving Middle School shared:
“Something that brought me joy as our learners returned to Irving Middle School was watching our learners connect with their teachers from last year, as well as their friends. The smiles on learners' faces as they walk into IMS brings me joy.” Ellen Laggis, assistant principal

Last year one of my students had some very challenging behaviors.  This morning he stopped by to wish me a happy first day of school. Relationships. Maria Wilson, teacher

Educators from New Horizon High School shared:
“We put on our foyer T.V. the names of graduates and the block they are graduating from. It was awesome to watch the learners when they saw their names and then the conversation they would have with other students about almost being done etc. It was a good vibe of accomplishment and success.” Keith Ottley, assistant principal

“I teach English and history at New Horizon High School. Today, I received a message from one of my new students that was from a former student who graduated. He wanted to tell me that he missed me. He was one who was frequently getting himself into trouble, but I was able to make a connection with him that helped him be successful. That is the joy in teaching-enduring relationships, and making it possible for students to succeed in spite of the challenges they face by taking the time to get to know them and offer encouragement or simply giving them someone to talk to.” Patricia Covert, teacher

“Student quotes about their “WHY.” One wrote, ‘So I can get my CDL. I want a degree in welding…and financing.’ Another wrote, ‘My why is my friends because I want to show them that if they put their minds to it they can do it.’ Another wrote, ‘So I can study forensics.’ And one wrote simply, ‘food.’ Amy Prescott, principal

Educators from Century High School shared:
“I enjoy meeting new students and beginning to build a positive relationship with them, however, seeing previous students and hearing them share their summer experiences with me brings me the most joy on the first day at school” Scott Eldredge, teacher

“Seeing student invite another student to come play, older students look out and help younger students.” Jennie Gaylord, paraprofessional

“I enjoy helping students feel less lost. Helping them find their classes and reassure them that we can help with what they need.” Heidi Jenkins, paraprofessional

Educators from Highland High School shared:
“It’s very simple for B1 at HHS brings me great joy.  I LOVE being back in my classroom with all the happy learners!” Jan McCarthy, teacher

“Joy is having students excited to be in our school.” Pamela Fleischmann, teacher

"This may be too late, but such is the life of a counselor the first few days of school...ha. Anway, what brought me joy the first day of school was working with students in my "home" again. Everyone was so kind to us and gave us their space since the fire, but, there is NOTHING like helping kids achieve their goals from their own home base!" Cali Hilliard, counselor

Educators from Pocatello High School shared:
“Today my ninth grade students brought me joy by leaving their comfort zones! They completed an activity where they talked to a student in class that they didn't know and shared the information that they learned about that person with the class. The interactions were so fun and meaningful” Elisabeth Wortley, teacher

“Watching the Gate City Singers perform the National Anthem at our PHS opening assembly.  They were great!” Kerrie Tolman, teacher

“I had students that were really impressed that I remembered there name. One even mentioned that it meant a lot to her. I wished her a great first day!” Melissa Bowlin, paraprofessional

“I was AMAZED by the energy and spirit at PHS's opening assembly! The students and staff love being here, and it shows!” Dana Facer, teacher

“Today I was filled with JOY when PHS's Seniors rushed into the Pit to start our assembly. They've made it and are ready for a wonderful, last school year!” Holly Lacey, assistant principal

“I get joy from watching the new teachers and staff at Poky high strut their stuff at the assembly.  Lisa Delonas has them introduce themselves to the students and then she has them dance for the student body.  Some of their moves really made me laugh and it was the highlight of my day.” John Carlson, behavior tech

My Joy for the first day was seeing so many students that I knew from previously working at Irving middle school, that amount of many hugs I got was amazing! Too see their smiles and see thier new "grown up lives" reassure me that I will countuie to be there for my students. No matter what. Crystal Peace, personal care PT

Educators from the ARCHES program shared:
“Today felt like Christmas morning!!! Not only was today the 1st day back to school, but we got to welcome our learners back to the new ARCHES program and building! I’ve waited all summer for this day! Excited to see how these amazing learners for the post transition ARCHES program excel this school year!” Leslie Swaney, paraprofessional

Educators from across the district shared:
"I can't wait for 'Kindergarden' tomorrow. I make new friends!" (Tendoy learner) and - "Mr. Schultz, PE is my favorite, I love PE!" (Syringa learner) Thomas Schultz, Physical Education teacher

“For reference, I am a speech-language pathologist contracted with the district through a private company. And I live in Arizona, lol. And I won't even be seeing any of the kids' faces until next week at the earliest. BUT, despite how new to and physically far away from the district I am, I can see wheels turning together and feel the spirit of teamwork in each email I have received over these first few days. Starting a new school year is inherently hard, and doing so with a new district brings a lot of uncertainty, but I have felt more peace starting this year than in many years past. Today, I am aloft with joy.” Matthew Ricca, speech-language pathologist