Full day K brings new opportunities, challenges

Students in Southington headed back to school at the tail end of August, but teachers were preparing for weeks ahead of time.

This year, Kindergarten is a full day program, which will bring about new opportunities and challenges for students and teachers alike.

The Citizen spoke with Gretchen Yatzook, a Kindergarten teacher at Flanders Elementary School, about how she prepared for the new school year and what is ahead for her students in the months to come.

How did you get ready for the new school year?

Yatzook: Since this is the first year we will have full day kindergarten, it’s been like Christmas around here; opening new supplies, getting new furniture and working on a new curriculum. I’ve been busy trying to make sure everything has a place and it’s organized and accessible for the students.

Did you do anything special to your room this year?

Yatzook: I really try to make the room as bright, colorful and warm as possible. I put up lots of characters around the room, such as the Cat in the Hat, Curious George and Clifford, so when the kids walk in they see things that are familiar to them and get them excited about being there. I also want them to develop a love for books and have the characters they read about become their best friends. I grew up loving books and I want the same for my students.

What will you focus on this year in your classroom?

Yatzook: With Kindergarten being full day, it’s going to allow us to continue our academics but also be able to implement more social development skills as well. The students will now have more time to do things like explore the sand and water table and play with the kitchen set. It will open up opportunities for them to interact more with one another.

What can parents do over these first couple of weeks as students are transitioning out of summer into the school mindset?

Yatzook: There can be a lot of anticipation with a new school year, so parents need to talk to their kids about what to expect in a school day. Keep them informed about things such as are they taking the bus, or buying lunch in the cafeteria, or needing sneakers for gym class. And just make time to talk about how their day was and if any problems come up, just contact your child’s teachers. We are here to help any way we can.

How do you feel about being back into school mode?

Yatzook: This is my 12th year of teaching, but every year it feels like my first year. It doesn’t feel like I am coming back to the same job. There are always new faces and experiences and I am looking forward to the opportunities that will open up now that we are full day.

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