MICHIGAN CITY — Amy Williams, mother of a Barker Middle School eighth-grader and a Coolspring Elementary fifth-grader, said she loves the first day of school “because it’s a fresh start for everyone.

The mother of Juliana and Nick, who, like hundreds of other students around Michigan City, returned to their schools for the first day of the 2019-20 school year on Wednesday, said, “The kids’ and teachers’ excitement that morning just fills the building with such positivity.”

The excitement was tangible as Michigan City Area Schools and many of the city’s parochial schools (students return to Marquette Aug. 19, Notre Dame Aug. 21) got back to business, though much of that business was meeting new faces.

“What I love about the first day of school is the new beginning – the start of building relationships with the room full of new faces. I love to share their excitement,” said Nikki Anthony, a second-grade teacher at Marsh Elementary.

“As teachers, we get to see the start of new friendships and building of new ideas. Marsh is all about finding the positive way to motivate the students. We are one of the few schools that use PBIS (positive behavioral interventions and supports), a system that rewards the students for the right choices.”

“I’m excited for another year – to come in and see all these new faces is really exciting,” said Denise Delaney, kindergarten teacher at St. Stanislaus School. “It’s a new challenge for me each year, but I look forward to it.”

Michael Ramsey, eighth-grade Language Arts Teacher at Barker, was also excited to get started.

“I’m excited about the administration this year at Barker with Mr. (Fred) Greene as principal and Mr. (Lucas) Snyder as assistant principal. I’m looking forward to diving in and having the kids read some really good books.

“Over the past few summers the literacy library in my classroom has been built up. We will be reading, discussing what we’ve read among ourselves, and then reading some more.”

Christina Schultz, second-grade teacher at Joy Elementary, said it’s all about the kids.

“This year I am looking forward to meeting my new students and striving to help each one of them set and meet their personal academic goals, while having a fun, memorable year in my class.

“Our staff here at Joy is second to none. What makes Joy staff so amazing is that everyone here is like family and we love and support each other in our work and personal lives. I absolutely love our staff,” Schultz said.

“This is my 16th year of teaching for MCAS and I have taught grades 1-5, but I especially love teaching second grade because I know the standards that need to be taught to ensure that the kids are prepared for third grade testing, such as iRead and ILearn.” 

Kim Palmer, principal at Coolspring, also said it’s about the students and their progress.

“Coolspring School is proud that we are beginning the school year with our students demonstrating high performance and high growth in reading and math, as measured by iReady scores. We are anxious to continue our second year of implementing a Social Emotional Learning program focusing on mindfulness and being a whole body listener.”

Chris Evans, principal at St. Stanislaus School, also has a lot to look forward to.

“This year, we’ll be the only elementary school in the entire diocese that will be one-to-one with iPads from junior kindergarten through eighth grade. We got brand new LED installed throughout the entire building, inside and out,” he said.

“And we have an increase in enrollment, so this should be a very positive year,” he said, pointing out it’s the highest enrollment in four years, “with more likely to come in.”

Don Thomspon, physical education teacher at St. Paul Lutheran School, had the kids out playing kickball on day one.

“It’s good to see everybody back at school,” said the teacher kids know as Mr. T. “It’s a lot of fun. We just like to see sixth-graders grow and mature.”

For the students, it’s all about meeting new friends and getting back to their favorite subjects.

“I’m really looking forward to learning new things and meeting new people with the new seventh-graders coming into the building,” said Sophia Barczak, an eighth-grader at Krueger Middle School.

“I’m looking forward to being in band again because that’s my favorite class. I had a positive experience with a lot of my teachers last year at Krueger.”

Jacob Long, a seventh-grader at Barker, said, “I am most excited about more art, mostly drawing, at Barker Middle School. I’m also looking forward to meeting new people.”

“There are some new classes I’m excited for, like health, language arts, lab,” said Abby Haring, a 6th-grader at St. Paul. “And I’m looking forward to playing volleyball and basketball.”

Jada McKendree, a sixth-grader in the Gifted and Talented Class at Joy Elementary, said, “I’m excited about the new kids that are coming into my class. I like that the GT class is different than the other classes because of the multiple ages. We get along together so well as a class.”

Juliana Williams, also a Barker eighth-grader, said, “I really like how friendly and helpful the staff at Barker is. Principal Mr. Greene makes Barker a fun, positive place.”

“I really appreciate the staff at Barker and Coolspring,” parent Amy Williams said. “I was able to attend both back-to-school nights and the staff was very welcoming at both places. I look forward to another great year ... I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish this year.”

Or, as St. Stan’s kindergartener Jastan Boyd, summed up: “I’ve been having fun and being nice. I have new friends, and we’re learning how to be happy and be good.”

– Kim Nowatzke, Kelley Smith and Jeff Mayes contributed to this report.


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