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CLASS OF 2032 We Welcome You!

Transitioning to kindergarten leads to mixed emotions among parents and students alike. Starting school can be incredibly exciting, but also nerve-wracking and intimidating. To help alleviate some of those first day of school jitters, Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation provided funding to give every student a copy of the book “The Kissing Hand.” They also gave students Class of 2032 shirts to wear on their first day, giving them a sense of community and belonging.

“Kindergarten is the foundation of their whole education,” said Audrey Merz, kindergarten teacher at Jefferson Elementary. With that said, it is important that all students feel a sense of belonging. We work very hard as a staff, along with parents and students, to build a strong school family. Every day when they come to school, we want them to know how much we value and love them. We want them to know they are safe and supported. When students feel like they are part of the school family, they work harder, have confidence, build healthy social skills and learn to love school.”

By giving all kindergartners Class of 2032 shirts to wear on their first day, students could begin identifying themselves as part of a bigger community. Adrienne Eldridge, parent of Jefferson Elementary kindergartner Annabelle, was happy to see her daughter’s enthusiasm towards meeting her new classmates after seeing the shirts.

“My daughter couldn’t wait to wear her shirt to school,” said Eldridge. “I'm sure it was exciting for all of the students to look around at everyone on the first day and notice they all had something in common already.”

To ease worries about joining the new community and being separated from parents, the Education Foundation provided all kindergartners with a copy of “The Kissing Hand.” The book tells the story of a young racoon who is nervous about going to school for the first time. His mother kisses his hands and tells him that the kiss will always be there as a reminder that he is loved.

“The book reassures the child that everything will be okay even though it may seem strange and scary at first,” said Tricia Twigg, assistant director for the Gahanna-Jefferson Education Foundation. “’The Kissing Hand’ provides a simple, yet powerful, way to cope with a difficult situation that hopefully opens the door for a conversation between students and parents.”

Because kindergarten is a big change, the district works hard to produce initiatives that create confidence and community in the students. In addition to these other initiatives, students and parents also participated in a Kindergarten Round Up in the spring to help prepare for the school year ahead. The event gave students and parents the opportunity to get to know the elementary school building, meet teachers and ask questions. To begin the school year, students started on staggered entrance dates so they could get to know their teachers and a few classmates without being overwhelmed by meeting the entire class at once.

“Students get more attention and are able to practice their new routine with staggered entrance,” said Merz. “After the first week, we spend the first several months of the school year focusing on relationships, expectations and building confidence. Students are reassured that teachers care about them and will always support them and keep them safe.”

Welcome class of 2032!