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Back to school

Posted July 31, 2013 in Clear Lake

The countdown is on.

While teachers ready their rooms and polish their lesson plans, parents budget in shopping trips for new shoes, notepads, backpacks, lunch bags, pencils and everything else on the lengthy back-to-school list.

Kids, meanwhile, have just one task: to squeeze every last bit of fun out of summer that they can before it’s time to rise and shine, bright and early, Monday, Aug. 19, for that first day back to school.

A.J. Feuerbach and daughter Anna look forward to the start of a new school year.

A.J. Feuerbach and daughter Anna look forward to the start of a new school year.

Back to school time is nearly here and parents, teachers and children of every age are gearing up for that fateful day when the school bell rings again.

“We’re always excited about a new school year,” says Superintendent Anita Micich.

For students, her wish is for a year filled with great experiences, opportunities both academic and social, and a solid building block on their educational path that will lead to success for the long haul.

Recognizing that all students are unique and have different ways of devouring knowledge, Micich hopes that students will “engage in learning how they learn.”

For her part, she says the district is making sure that students are equipped with the tools they need in today’s world.

“We’re adding some Chromebooks (personal computers) at all levels, K – 12. We also added another Project Lead the Way Class at the high school and the middle school,” she notes.

But Micich also recognizes that school is about more than reading, writing and arithmetic — it’s about becoming the person each one is meant to be.

“I hope the kids will all meet some new friends this year,” she says fondly.

The district enjoys strong support in the community, for which Micich is grateful.

“The parent involvement at Clear Lake has always been just phenomenal,” she says.

Throughout the year, she encourages parents to stay involved by coming to open houses, attending conferences and simply calling teachers administrators when they have a question or concern.

“We’re here to help,” she adds.

Perhaps no one understands the back-to-school rush better than teachers who also happen to be parents with young and growing families.

Teachers A.J. and Jamie Feuerbach have known their share of back-to-school seasons, first as students and now as educators. But from either side of the classroom, each new year brings its own set of changes in technology, methodology and even culture. For these veteran teachers, the start of the school year always comes brimming with challenges, as well as opportunities.

With three children of their own, they can easily empathize with families who sometimes feel overwhelmed getting kids off to school on that first day.

Son entering the fifth grade and looking forward to having his mom for his Language Arts teacher. She’ll have a challenge on her hands, as he says it’s one of his least favorite subjects.

“Science and social studies are my favorites,” he says. “I think I like social studies the best because I like to study maps a lot.”

Daughter Anna will be in second grade and is leading the way for a new generation of females who love math.

“I’m looking forward to math because it’s really fun to learn,” she says.

Payton, soon to be 3 years old, just enjoys playing in her mom’s classroom and isn’t too worried about subject areas yet.

As a teacher and parent, Jamie Feuerbach starts the back-to-school transition at home several weeks before the first day.

“We start the routine of going to bed earlier and then getting up earlier at the beginning of August,” she says.

Even taking the kids school shopping is a ritual that can help get them prepared for a fresh start. It’s a good idea to check out the school supply list on the district website and then take it along shopping so that kids have the materials they need. The lists can be a great organizational tool for both students and parents.

“It’s really important to teach kids how to take care of their things,” says Mrs. Feuerbach, adding that organizational skills go a long way in making for a successful school year.

“In fifth grade we work hard on using a planner, not only for their assignments but to inform Mom and Dad about what’s going on, what they’re learning and extra things that we’re doing at school,” she explains.

Building organizational skills is also critical as students advance in grade level.

Andres Gonzalez and Blake Kelso are embarking on what most consider the most exciting phase of one’s education, their senior year, with high expectations.

Andres Gonzalez and Blake Kelso are embarking on what most consider the most exciting phase of one’s education, their senior year, with high expectations.

A.J. Feuerbach teaches freshman science, sophomore biology, and global and environment science for juniors and seniors at Clear Lake High School. Each year he looks forward to a new group of students.

“It’s a lot of fun for me as a teacher of freshman students to see them change in maturity, and in their knowledge level, in the nine months that I get to see them from August to May,” he says. “That’s the fun part of teaching for me — to see the change that takes place in students.”

The freshman year is a pivotal one for many students, and Mr. Feuerbach says students — as well as their parents — need to be prepared for the increased demands of high school.

“My advice for parents is to have their kids prepared because the expectations are higher,” he explains. “It’s a change for a lot of them, and the reason is that we are getting them prepared for their future. It’s time to up the ante a little bit.”

Now in his 19th year of teaching and seventh year at Clear Lake, Feuerbach says a little structure goes a long way in helping students succeed, especially as the year gets underway. And for parents, that also means staying involved all year long.

“Be involved with their life. Check their homework, make sure things are getting done,” he says. “I think one of the biggest ways to help them in high school is to stay on top of their homework; check their grades on the Internet. Be vigilant in checking their scores, and make sure if they have something that’s not turned in, that they get it done. Just communicate; that’s a really big thing that helps.”

Most of all, he simply wants students to have the best experience possible and one that will serve them well in the years to come.

“I always tell kids that in high school you have this wonderful opportunity, where you have the most freedom and the least responsibility in your life — so cherish it. Be smart about it, but also take advantage of it. You only get one time to go out for a sport, or for chorus, or the band. Be involved, because that is going to make you value this time so much more. It also creates great memories and great friendships,” he adds.

For the class of 2014, the start of the new school year marks a final beginning in their educational path. After this year, nothing will be the same, and most seniors intend to make the most of it while they can.

Blake Kelso and Andres Gonzalez are friends and teammates preparing for their senior year at Clear Lake High School, ready to take on another year and the world that awaits beyond.

“I’m ready for some new adventures,” says Kelso. “It’s fun hanging out with friends after school, and getting to know the teachers.”

Kelso says he runs on the track team for the fun of it and then goes out for wrestling for the competitive nature of the sport.

“We have a good team, and some good coaches, so it’s just a lot fun,” Kelso says.

After graduation, Kelso plans to attend NIACC for two years and then transfer to the University of Northern Iowa. He would eventually like to become an athletic trainer.

Gonzalez is also out for track and wrestling, and this year plans to add football to his busy schedule. While it’s been a few years since he’s played, Gonzalez is looking forward to hitting the gridiron again this fall. As an avid wrestler, he’s stayed in shape.

“I’ve wrestled since I was about 4 years old; it’s just part of my life. I wake up in the morning and start lifting and running,” he notes.

Gonzalez may be a senior, but he’s actually still pretty new to the Clear Lake Community School District. He moved from Mason City last year and, having attended smaller schools in the past, seems to fit in well at Clear Lake.

“It’s a lot easier to know everyone in your grade. In Mason City I definitely couldn’t get to know everybody on a personal level. Here I can get to know everybody in my grade, and it’s just a nice, new experience,” he notes.

There’s a brand new year ahead for students, parents and teachers. It will fly by — faster for the parents and teachers than for the students — and making the most of each new day will make the new year one to remember for years to come.

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