Moffat County teachers, students, administrators busy with back-to-school preparations |

Moffat County teachers, students, administrators busy with back-to-school preparations

Lauren Blair
Incoming freshmen Tiffany Hildebrandt and Trenton Hillewaert get to know each other during the Link Crew freshman orientation Thursday afternoon at Moffat County High School. The orientation was one of several back-to-school events happening throughout the week to get both teachers and students ready for the start of the new school year Monday.
Lauren Blair

— Whether you’re a student, a parent or have nothing to do with schools at all, it’s hard not to feel the palpable changes that come in late summer: the changing light of the turning season, a cool crispness in the air, and the buzz of back-to-school preparations.

The teachers, students and administrators of Moffat County School District have indeed been busy bees this week as they attended trainings, orientations, back-to-school nights and athletic practices in preparation for the first day of school Monday.

“I think always, every year at the start of school, there’s this excitement for the new innovations and challenges ahead, excitement for watching children grow another year, seeing those faces and watching them enter another chapter of their life,” said MCSD Superintendent Brent Curtice.

None of it is possible without dedicated educators.

Teachers get ready

The week kicked off with new teacher training on Monday and Tuesday at the district administration building.

With sessions on everything from using Google tools to insurance to learning targets, the two-day crash course helped 42 new teachers get oriented to their positions.

“Getting to know all the new teachers and new staff they’ve brought in… everybody seems just not only really excited about it, but really positive and focused on getting student achievement up,” said new Moffat County High School language arts teacher Stephanie Everett.

The training marathon continued Wednesday as returning staff joined the new teachers for a back-to-school in-service at Craig Middle School.

The CMS lunch room had the air of Christmas as teachers filled their bags with classroom supplies purchased by Craig Rotary Club as well as donations supplied by Family Dollar and Love INC.

“You would not believe how many glue sticks I’ll go through in my classroom,” one teacher said as she stuffed her grocery bag full. “I’ll use every last one of these.”

The day’s training lineup included sessions for fifth-, eighth- and high school Advanced Placement teachers on how to utilize the many teaching tools and opportunities available through the iPad. Teachers in other grades, all of whom are equipped with their own iPad to put to use in the classroom, were able to learn some tips and tricks as well.

“I’m really excited about watching how our students and teachers begin working with digital devices in a different way than they have in the past,” Curtice said. “I was really impressed with the engagement of our teachers all the way through the end of the day.”

Director of Curriculum and Assessment Amy Ward reported to the school board Thursday that the day’s training was a big success.

“One teacher commented on the feedback form that it was best in-service day he’s had in the 15 years since he started,” Ward said.

Sixth-graders tackle lockers at Craig Middle School back-to-school night

Craig Middle School’s incoming class of sixth-graders got their feet wet Thursday evening during back-to-school night. The halls were packed with parents and their young students, who met their teachers, learned their way around the school, and most importantly, tackled the ever-challenging problem of how to open a locker.

Some students figured it out on nearly the first try, but for others like sixth-grader Dredikk Schiro, practice made perfect, but only after 10 attempts. Luckily, Schiro had his older sister, eighth-grader Alajsia Schiro, by his side for moral support.

“Try not to get run over in the hallways,” she offered her brother by way of advice. “And be nice to the teachers.”

Another sixth-grader, Karla Silva, was most nervous not about getting her locker open, but keeping up with the homework.

Nonetheless, Karla was excited about “just being in a different school and seeing different faces,” she said. “I’m most excited about art class.”

Sixth-grade reading and writing teacher Janie Wilson stood by as the fledgling middle-schoolers practiced their locker combinations. For Wilson, working with sixth-graders offers the best of both worlds.

“I like it because the kids still like their teachers,” she said with a laugh. “And they still kind of need hugs but they’re also kind of independent and can work in groups.”

Returning seventh- and eighth-graders, wiser for a year or two of experience with middle school life, followed after the sixth-graders to meet their new teachers and learn their way around their new classrooms.

Link Crew builds mentorship between incoming freshman, upperclassmen

Sixth-graders weren’t the only students on Thursday getting used to new stomping grounds.

About 140 incoming freshman gathered at Moffat County High School Thursday afternoon for the second annual Link Crew freshman orientation. With a current total count of 165, the freshman class is one of the largest the high school has seen in recent years.

The four-hour event, spearheaded by MCHS counselor Donna Weinman, included icebreakers, small group activities and a tour of the school, with a big emphasis on leadership for the upperclassmen and on feeling connected for the freshmen.

“We feel it’s important to get the freshman class in here with just the Link Crew leaders and no other students so they can start to feel comfortable in the building without it being crowded,” Weinman said. “It also gives them an opportunity to build camaraderie in groups with people maybe they had never been grouped with before and to expand to their horizons and connections.”

Freshman Brenna Knez found the afternoon to be not only helpful but enjoyable.

“The Link Crew really kind of helped take more of the nervousness away,” Knez said. “Just to know they have your back when school actually comes…. It makes me realize that it’s not a big deal.”

Link Crew leaders, all juniors and seniors, will continue to meet with their freshman charges at least once a month during advisory groups, a new feature of this year’s program.

Family Connection Day eases elementary students into school year

While middle school and high school students got warmed up for the new school year with back-to-school events this week, elementary students will get their turn on Monday.

This year, all of Moffat County’s elementary schools, including Maybell School, will start the year with a Family Connection Day in lieu of a regular first day of school.

“In order to connect way before grades are happening, way before expectations are being given… we’re doing knee-to-knee, individual 15-minute conferences with parents and families, having a barbeque and doing some other fun connection things to build relationships,” said East Elementary School Principal Sarah Hepworth.

Each school has assigned parents and students a specific time slot to come to the school to meet their teacher and spend time in their new classroom. Activities will help families and students to engage with each other and the teacher.

“A lot of people think learning is you just get information and spit it back out on the test, but learning is about learning those other skills you want to teach, like communication and collaboration,” Hepworth said. “It’s all about trust.”

East was the first elementary school to implement a family connection day last year, and the feedback was so positive that all of Moffat County’s elementary schools decided to try it out this year.

“I think it’ll be exciting to see,” Curtice said. “I like new and different and better ways to connect and we’ll learn a lot from it, if it’s a good move or if it’s a move we need to make better.”

There will be no busses for elementary students on Aug. 31. School will officially start for elementary students and normal bus routes will resume on Sept. 1.

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.

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