From staff reports
With new school supplies and backpacks in tow, students across the Diocese of Trenton disembarked buses or walked alongside parents as they returned to school the week of Sept. 4, where they were greeted warmly by principals and teachers.
In St. James Grammar School, Red Bank, kindergarten teacher Kira Nelsen grinned as she welcomed students back to school. She said she was happy to meet her new students and see their smiling faces.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know them … and teaching them all the great things kindergarten has to offer!” she said.
Eighth-grader Alexandra Lupu said she was looking forward to the new classes she would be taking this year. The first day of school was exciting, she said, “to see all your new friends and reacquainting yourself with everyone.”
The first-day thrills were just as palpable in St. Ann School, Lawrenceville, where kindergarten teacher Jennifer Bickham prepared to welcome 17 students to their classroom.
“On first day, I expect lots of organized chaos,” she said with a small laugh. “I expect my students to come in nervous … but excited. I expect us to have a lot of fun and the day to be over before I know it!”
As for the year ahead, she said, “I hope all of my students are able to grow in God’s love, academically and socially.”
Fellow teacher Kelly Meyer is ready to grow, too. “I am really looking forward to this year. I’m excited to be teaching third-grade; this is my first year,” said Meyer, who taught fourth grade at the school for three years.
She said she expects great things for the upcoming year. “We have a new principal who seems very hands on,” she said, adding that her favorite part of the school day “is when the kids come in and they’re so excited to learn, and it really gets the flow going in the classroom.”
Jennifer Klek has three children in the Lawrenceville school. Lauding the school’s academic program, she said, “I expect so much from the school, and I know they’re going to deliver.”
“St. Ann’s provides us with a strong Catholic base; it’s an awesome school with a tight-knit community.”
Teachers in St. Charles Borromeo School, Cinnaminson, reflected on the multi-generational links present this year. Nicole Vassallo, a graduate of St. Charles, is now both a St. Charles pre-K teacher and a school parent of a first-grader and preschooler. Karen Bradley, Vassallo’s former teacher, will be her son’s first-grade teacher.
“It really makes me feel good, because my kids went to school here, and Nicole’s grandmother taught my boys, so it really is family,” Bradley reflected. “This is actually my 34th first day at St. Charles.”
“It was really important for us that our children have that same education and upbringing,” Vassallo said. “It’s so nice to be back in a place that I called home for so many years, and to have my children be a part of that as well... The best part of the first day is seeing everybody with big smiles on their faces, hearing how their summer went.”
First day jitters in Trenton Catholic Academy’s Upper School, Hamilton, were mitigated by several seniors who attested to helping new students find their way – all of whom considered it one of the best parts of the new school year.
TCA senior Christa Senesan said that the best part of the first day is “seeing all the new students and meeting up with friends … it makes you feel welcome.” Ryan Alvarez, also a senior, agreed that “seeing all the new kids and showing them around so they don’t get lost, making them feel like they have friends here,” was one of the highlights of the day.
“I’m looking forward to teaching kids how to succeed in and love math, to know they can do it,” said Marianite of Holy Cross Sister Barbara Schreier, who also teaches religion and runs the service program in TCA. “I’m looking forward to service … carrying the message of Christ’s love and compassion … I send [the students] out to visit the elderly, help with Catholic Charities, Right to Life … whoever needs help, they call me.”
Video taken by photographers John Blaine, Mike Ehrmann, Michael Glenn, Joe Moore and Craig Pittelli contributed to this report.