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School Year Brings Change, New Faces for Students

by Sara E. Martin, Army Flier Staff Writer

Army Flier
Fort Rucker, AL | August 9, 2012

The new school year at Fort Rucker's Primary and Elementary Schools feature change, mixed emotions and new faces.

School began Aug. 6 with a mixture of both happy and sad parents and children. Though most parents are happy to see their children growing up, dropping them off for the first day of the new school can be somewhat difficult, said one parent, Amy Morder.

"It's bittersweet. [My son] is excited to start school and I am, too, but I will miss him" she said.

Other parents held back the emotions for the prospect of their children having a more productive day.

"It's going to be great to get back on schedule and alleviate some of the boredom that was built up during the summer," said Joey Edwards.

Sylvia Patrick, a sixth grade science teacher and the Department of Defense Education Activity 2012-13 Georgia/Alabama District Teacher of the Year, said that she always enjoys the new beginnings that each fall brings to the school.

"I love creating bigger plans every year. It's exciting to start fresh," she said.

Both the primary and elementary schools have seen change over the summer, including the online payment option for lunch.

"[The elementary school] was selected to be a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math school this year," said Dr. Vicki Gilmer, principal of the Fort Rucker Elementary School. A STEM school focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and with this year being an accreditation year for the school the funds came at the perfect time.

"We proved that we had the interest in these areas. We had the potential and displayed the motivation; we just needed the extra funding to push further. Now we receive extra funding for materials for those subjects," said Gilmer.

The school also expanded its engineering club that helped secure the selection of becoming a STEM school. Glimer said that the club began last year and had to be split into two groups, "Now we have the junior club, which is second and third graders, and the senior club for the fourth and fifth graders," she said.

The primary school also saw change with its 15 newly furnished classrooms that are "early childhood appropriate and designed to promote 21st century learning," said Dr. Deborah Deas, principal of Fort Rucker Primary School.

The faculties at both schools are proud of the technology provided in the classrooms that better support the learning needs of the children.

"Technology is a tool. It helps engage the students and it holds their interest," said Gilmer.

Both schools have computers and a Smartboard, an interactive white board that is connected to the computer and through the use of software, markers or the mouse that can be used to interact with the board, in every classroom.

Sylvia Thornton, the music teacher at Fort Rucker Primary School, said that one of the hardest aspects of teaching today is keeping up with the technology that is ever evolving and expanding in the classroom.

"Children expect technology in the classroom now. They expect to have interaction with computers and they don't want to have to 'power down' when they come to school. Teachers have to find new ways to challenge children. It's about matching learning styles to teaching styles," she said.

The school principals and teachers are confident that the schools are safe and certain measures have been taken to secure the safety of all the students.

"All the doors are staffed at the beginning and end of every day … to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. The entire school is fenced in, the doors automatically lock, and an MP (military police) helps with the crosswalks. Only people on the release list are allowed to check out designated children. They must present an I.D to be placed on the list as well as display the I.D. when they check out the child. This prevents strangers or those not authorized to be around the child from checking out students," said Gilmer, referring to both the primary school and the elementary school.

Deas and Thornton reinforced the fact that the primary school takes seriously the fears of parents.

"We want a safe environment for children. The play areas are behind locked gates, the doors have bulletproof glass and no one can get into the school without exchanging their license for a visitor pass," said Deas.

The schools have many policies in place to keep deployed parents up to date on their child's progress in school and Patrick encourages parents not be afraid to ask a question if they don't understand something that's going on in their child's life.

"We have the capability now where parents can tap into grades every day," said Gilmer. "This way parents aren't taken by surprise at the end of the nine weeks and say 'Oh my gosh, I had no idea he was struggling.'"

It's also a viable tool for deployed parents to congratulate a child on a job well done on a spelling test, she added.

The schools have grade books via the Internet and teachers email deployed parents every two weeks through a program called "Corresponding from A to Z" named by Dr. Deas.  

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