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Small Steps Lead to Giant Leaps in Kearney School District

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By Evan Janiak, Kearney High School Class of 2024

As I walked into Hawthorne Elementary School as an eager and anxious kindergartener on the first day of school, I had a blend of emotions going through my head. Excitement, like a trip to Worlds of Fun, and fear, like a surprise doctor appointment. My first step into the classroom was more fear than courage. The moments to follow were very overwhelming, and in minutes I knew I was safe and just needed to figure this all out. Here are a few tips I would pass along to that little guy before he walked in.

Relax and start taking it all in. Take your time to look around the room. All the desks and their arrangement, colorful posters and decorations, books of all kinds, and toys. All this has been set up for you, and it is for you to use! Look closely at all your new classmates and your teachers. These wonderful people will be your friends and mentors! Try hard to listen carefully. When your teacher speaks, it will have a purpose with information that will be beneficial later. Lunch and travel between classrooms can be complicated at times, but recess and P.E.- the holy grails of the day, are where you want to be on your game! Follow your teachers’ lead.

Start to embrace all the wonderful things school offers. You will hear about clubs and sports…for kindergarteners! From Lego groups, rumors of an amazing talent show, and what? …Football! It’s not all fun though; pay attention to the rules and follow them. If you hear something fantastic about a science club, ask about it. If you are unsure about a rule, speak up and find out. Pay attention to where things are located. Everywhere from the library, to the gym, music room and exits. Pro tip: When you are on the way to some of the great places within the school, turn around and see what it looks like, the way back never looks the same as the way there!

Be yourself, starting now. Not being the same as everyone else is cool, and that’s what makes our future friends interesting. Work on being a good communicator. Speak up, like you do at home. This is easy to say but hard to do. Let your teacher know if you enjoyed reading time or thought something was funny during the number song. They’ll appreciate the quick input. Also, let your teacher know if you feel uncomfortable or nervous about any situation. All good things come from your kindergarten teacher, just like your parents. It’s a powerful relationship.

Looking back at my first day of kindergarten, I now look at it as if it were the first moon landing. That small step into that classroom on the first day of kindergarten was a giant leap that led me on a rewarding and fun journey with amazing friends, mentors, and memories. There were opportunities every step of the way provided by Kearney R-1 and the City of Kearney to put me in the position I am today where I can pursue my dreams. So, to that little guy with big dreams on his first day; relax, embrace the environment, and be yourself.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This ran originally in the Summer 2024 issue of Kearney School District’s “Bulldog News” quarterly magazine. Mr. Janiak will be attending the U.S. Naval Academy starting this fall.

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