HINSDALE – Ruben Peña couldn’t go more than a minute without getting a “hello” from across the room or getting a high-five from a student.
“I’m excited to be back,” said the principal of Hinsdale Middle School at its back-to-school day Aug. 14. “We have great kids, a supportive community… I’m lucky to be principal here. It’s a great place.”
Peña, the PTO and teachers braved the controlled chaos as they helped sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders get their schedules, move in to their lockers and take care of supplies in preparation for the start of another school year.The actual first day of school was Thursday.
“It is a little chaotic, but this is such a critical time for everybody to work out the kinks with their schedule and the ease it causes the kids who are so anxious, especially the sixth-graders,” said Cathy Daly of the PTO who co-chairs the back-to-school day.
For the sixth-graders, they will have to face a barrage of new obstacles, such as changing classrooms and making it to each class by the time that bell rings.
“The funniest thing of all is they don’t even know how to turn the lock on their locker,” Daly said. “That is the most stressful part of their day is that lock.”
Peña said he’s looking forward to helping the sixth-graders feel welcome and assisting them with finding their way around the school. He’s also counting on the seventh- and eighth-graders to be leaders and help the incoming middle schoolers.
“As a staff, we recognize the sixth-graders are going to be nervous and so we’ve given them a few extra minutes to get to and from classrooms,” Peña said. “They need to know every sixth-grader is feeling nervous and it’s going to be okay.”
At the back-to-school day, students could also pick up pre-ordered school supply kits, dictionaries, get their school I.D. card and science goggles.
“All this stuff we’re handing out now the teachers would normally be handing out the first week of school, so we’re saving classroom time by doing all these types of tasks for the teachers so they can get right down to the curriculum the first week,” Daly said.
Daly also stressed that everyone at the back-to-school day was there voluntarily, including the teachers who were assisting as this was not a part of their pay week.
“I’m looking forward to meeting the new kids and seeing the old ones,” said sixth-grade teacher Vicki Johnston, who was helping students find where they need to go. “They grow so much over the summer.”
Johnston said all the kids she’s been meeting with were excited to be back after the summer, especially the ones she has taught before who were happy to see her again.
“Summer was fun, but I’m looking forward to being back,” said Juliana Mayer, 13, of Burr Ridge.
Daly, who has two boys that attend Hinsdale Middle School, used to teach in the district at Oak School and said her boys are looking forward to starting again. She was also proud of the efforts during back-to-school day because of what a great confidence booster it is for the students.
“I’m a big proponent of Hinsdale 181 and now I’m coming at it from the parent perspective and really appreciate the district more after being a parent in it,” Daly said. “I’m not just blowing smoke, they’re all really amazing here.