`Welcome back, Bienvenidos’: First day of school a hit in any language | PostIndependent.com

`Welcome back, Bienvenidos’: First day of school a hit in any language

by Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff

Josiah Wright, a first grader at Glenwood Springs Elementary, rated his first day of school a big thumbs-up.

“I like school because a lot of kids like my brand new shoes,” he said, jumping off a set of steps in the school playground during morning recess, his spanking-new black sneakers getting a first-day-of-school workout.

First-grader Shane Wright – no relation to Josiah (“Am I related to him? I don’t even know who he is,” said Shane) – was equally pleased with his first day of school.

“I’m excited because I learned the rules,” he said of his first few hours in Colleen Boddy’s class. “Also, I usually don’t get to color on scraps of paper with markers, but I got to do that.”

It’s Nisia Patalan’s third year as a first grade teacher at Glenwood Elementary. After teaching her students the fine points of lining up, she released them into a perfect September day for recess.

“It’s been great so far,” she said of her first day back. “We had one little girl who wasn’t talking, but she’s talking now. You know, the first day without Mom.”

Even though about half of Patalan’s students attended kindergarten, the first day of first grade is quite a significant event.

“For those who went to kindergarten, they just went half day,” she said. “Now, they’re going to be eating lunch at school. There are no naps. First grade is the big time.”

Patalan has 17 students in her class this year, eight of whom are Latino, with various abilities to speak and understand English. So, all over the room, Patalan has pasted up signs in English and Spanish: “clock/el reloj,” “wall/il pared,” “alphabet/el alfabeto.”

It’s a good thing Patalan is bilingual in English and Spanish. Just pronouncing some of the children’s names – exotic names like Nallely and Jaresline – could prove to be a linguistic challenge.

But no worries. Nisia Patalan’s got an exotic enough name of her own. Its origin?

“Polish,” she said with a smile.

The novelty of lockers

The sign above the front entrance at Carbondale Middle School greeted students and teachers Tuesday with “Welcome Back!” and “Bienvenidos,” which mirrored the blending of English and Spanish heard in the halls and out on the playground.

In any language, one of the most exciting things about starting school seemed to be centered around the lockers.

Yes, the lockers.

“Lockers are cool,” said Daniel Soporita, a sixth grader who, before Tuesday, never had access to his very own, private, combination-lock locker.

Being more grown up also has a price.

“The lockers are hard to open,” said sixth grader Brandi Short.

Out on the playground, eighth graders Lizbeth Barron and Crisol Tellez were wearing matching sweater coats – Lizbeth’s in black, Crisol’s in white.

“We bought them together,” said Barron, “We bought them at the Mexican shop near City Market.”

The girls said they’re glad to be back at school.

“We get to see all of our friends,” said Tellez. “And meet new people, too.”

At lunchtime, sixth grader Joel Amezquita stood in the cafeteria line with his buddies, Eduardo Carrera, Jorge Caballos and Daniel Soporita. They rattled off phrases in English and Spanish seamlessly amongst each other and with the other kids in line, never skipping a beat.

“I learned English in kindergarten,” said Amezquita. “So did Eduardo.”

Brandi Short was behind them in line, standing with Wendy Balleza and Natalie Nevarez.

“I like my classes and the teachers are really good,” she said, keeping the first day in a new school in check. “The school is big, but I kind of knew what to expect since my sisters went here before me.”

Remembering classmates

The mood was more somber on the first day of school at Basalt High School.

Principal Jim Waddick and assistant principal Karen Harvey decided to start the school year off with an all-school assembly, remembering five students who have died. Senior class president A.J. Hobbs lit five candles to remember the classmates.

“It’s not the most uplifting way to start school, but we felt we had to bring closure to our students,” Harvey said. “We felt if we ignored it, it would almost be like they hadn’t existed.”

Honored was John Sternig, 17, who died June 15 in a car accident near DeBeque. He was senior class vice president and would have graduated with the class of 2004.

Dayan Diaz was another Basalt High student who would have also been a senior had she lived. She committed suicide on April 12, 2002, when she was 15.

Erik Newbury, who died June 14, 2001, from a heart condition, was the third member of the class of 2004 to be honored. The school now has a memorial park called “Erik’s Place” as a tribute to him.

And A.J. Hobbs led the school in remembering Kate Keenan. She was 11 when she died in a fatal car accident on June 6, 2000. Had she lived she would have been a freshman at Basalt High this year.

The fifth candle was to remember Cody Brickell, a 2003 Glenwood High School graduate, who was killed in a car accident on Four Mile Road July 19.

“It was really saddening and it touched everybody,” said Katherine Swanson, a Basalt High junior, of the memorial.

“I really think it helped to connect all of us, and bring the school together,” added junior Haley Stumpus.

Once the assembly was over, though, it was back to the books.

“I’ve already got homework!” Stumpus said. “I was ready for the social part of school to start, but not necessarily the homework.”

“I’ve already had a test,” said Swanson. “I guess it’s to see where we are at the beginning of the year versus the end.”

It was the first day of school for Seann Goodman, Basalt High’s new social studies teacher. A graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder, he did his student teaching and taught in Longmont before coming to Basalt.

“I’ve got a lot of freshmen classes and they’re all a little bit `what-a,'” he said with a smile, indicating the younger students were a bit of overwhelmed and confused, “but I’m a little that way too. So far so good.”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518


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