Freeport school’s first day brings smiles, hugs and Pretzel PRIDE
JournalStandard.com. Jane Lethlean. August 23, 2017.

As 300 students from kindergarten through fourth grade flowed through the doors at Jones-Farrar Magnet School today, Principal Jennifer DeJong said she loved seeing their smiles again and receiving first-day-of-school hugs.

“For some of the students, there are butterflies and nerves, but I had one kindergartner that skipped down the hallway with excitement,” DeJong said. “The first day is about a lot of details, and we spend the first two weeks building relationships and routines with the students.”

For fourth-grader Anicka Kraft, the first day was about getting reacquainted with friends she hadn’t seen over the summer. She said she had a good summer but is glad to move on to fourth grade, with a new teacher, and be a role model for younger students.

“I just love the first day,” Anicka said. “I’m ready for a new school year and (to) learn new things, and I like being one of the older ones at the school now. It lets me be a good example for the younger kids.”

Anicka was among her peers sitting in a circle listening to their teacher, Laura Stocker, speak about the school’s Positive Behavior Intervention Support program. The first order of business for teachers at Jones-Farrar Magnet School is to talk about PBIS and what it’s like to have Pretzel PRIDE (Positive, Respectful, Independent, Determined, Excellence), which is a districtwide positive-reinforcement program that rewards good behavior and instills a sense of school pride. Students who earn rewards can shop at the PRIDE pantry at the school.

“Most of our students love PBIS, and we set goals for them that are based on data,” DeJong said. “What we do on the first day is not only talk about PBIS, but also lunchroom etiquette, where we establish the routine and talk about volume levels, but with the teachers we also make sure they speak to the students about expectations for the school year.”

While the PBIS program has been used primarily in the elementary schools and PRIDE in the upper-grade levels, this year Pretzel PRIDE is being used in all schools. Stocker began the talk with what it means to be a Pretzel and how to properly exhibit that pride throughout the school year. That includes acting appropriately, being kind to others and being motivated to succeed in the classroom.

“The first day of school is always exciting for me, and I want it to be exciting for the students,” Stocker said. “I prep all summer for the first day, and it comes down to making sure each student feels excited to be in school.”

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