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Seize the New School Year!

A new school year begins with endless opportunities and possibilities.

Today is the first day of school for most local K-12 students.

To make me feel even older and more removed from my own school days, I did a little math.

Today's new freshmen are members of the Class of 2016.

Today's new kindergartners are members of the Class of 2025.

I don't know about you, but when these kindergartners graduate, they will do so 50 years after I graduated from high school.

It just doesn't seem possible.

I have a relationship with my school days that I'm sure many—if not all of us— have.

Some school memories, including some from first grade (I'm so old my school—Mars Estates Elementary School in Essex—did not have kindergarten when I was that age) seem like they were so recent I could simply reach out and touch them.

Others seem to be from several lifetimes ago and it is difficult to connect them to my life.

One thing that does stand out about my public school career is the excellent teaching I had along the way.

With one exception (and as I look back at it, I think it was just a personality clash), all of my teachers at Mars Estates were superb educators.

From Mrs. Higgins and Miss Crabtree in first grade through Ernest Nuetzel in sixth grade, not to mention instrumental music teacher Ray Mazza, physical education teacher Frank Krug and art teacher Victoria Sherman, each teacher was a dedicated, talented and patient educator who managed to bring out the potential in all of their students.

My middle and high school English teachers, without me quite realizing it at the time, planted the seeds of what would eventually be a career in journalism. From seventh-grade English teacher Kay Poorman through high school teachers Eileen Mikolayunas and Rodney Fayman, a natural love for words and writing was nurtured, honed and encouraged.

High school journalism teachers Lois Moline and Eva Walsh taught me a different style of writing and opened the door to reporting, news writing, photography, darkroom work and layout and design.

In spite of criticism that would make one believe otherwise, I believe today's teachers are just as dedicated, just as talented and still enjoy mentoring and coaching their young charges.

If anything, today's teachers have more stress on them, with the demands of standardized testing, the contstant measuring and evaluating of student achievement, the over-involvement of helicopter parents and new technology that invades their privacy when parents and students use that technology to reach them at all hours of the day and night.

Perhaps the best thing about any new school year is that it presents a clean slate to all involved.

Teachers are fresh, with a new set of faces before them. They can experiment with teaching styles, try out new material they picked up at a summer workshop and implement new programs and try new projects.

Students have the opportunity to reinvent themselves, take chances and try new things. Perhaps a talented singer will finally work up the nerve to audition for the school musical, or a reluctant student will finally take charge of his academics and perform to his abilities.

It's a brand new chapter — make good use of every page!

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