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Local teachers offer school transition advice

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s time to say goodbye to late nights and lazy mornings for area students.

Illustration by Cathryn Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal

As summer begins to wind down, students and parents are revving up for the start of school. Albuquerque Public School students not enrolled in a year-round school, as well as Bernalillo Public Schools children, return to class Aug. 14, while Rio Rancho’s middle and high schoolers head back Aug. 15 followed by elementary students Aug. 18.

There are many things parents and students can do to prepare for the first day of school. It’s especially important for the transition years of kindergarten, and sixth and ninth grades.

For kindergartners, it’s the start of their formal education and for many the first time away from their parents. Sixth-graders are entering an environment where they will have a lot more demands and organization skills are a must. Finally, freshman are at the start of transitioning to adulthood and life after school.

Three local teachers have offered some tips for parents and students in these grades.


Joy Aragon, kindergarten teacher at Duranes Elementary

Joy Aragon

1. It’s OK for children to be scared and nervous the first day of school.

“A lot of time so are the teachers,” said Joy Aragon, kindergarten teacher at Duranes Elementary. “We are all in the same boat.”

Aragon suggests doing something to help calm a child’s fears, such as a fun activity. She also said parents shouldn’t talk too much about the start of school to the child because it can cause anxiety.

2. Make sure students are well rested and fed before their first day of school.

3. Children should come to kindergarten with some basic academic skills whether they are taught by parents or preschool.

“A lot of people think kindergarten is just play but not anymore,” she said. “But if kids come in being able to identify letters, counting to 10, knowing basic shapes and colors and their name, if they come in with a good amount of those skills, they are a lot more confident and not as scared.”

4. Make sure to come well prepared with supplies. The first day of school they will probably need basics like a backpack, crayons, markers, glue, paper and pencils.

5. Parents need to prepare themselves for the emotion of the event as well. Aragon said many parents underestimate how emotional they will be after leaving their student at kindergarten. She said in her 19 years of teaching, she’s seen both mothers and fathers cry the first day of school.

Sixth grade

Alex Tharinger, sixth-grade math teacher at Mountain View Middle School in Rio Rancho

Alex Tharinger

1. Visit your child’s middle school before the first day of school to locate classrooms.

“Sixth-graders are always stressed about where to go for the first few days,” said Alex Tharinger, sixth-grade math teacher at Mountain View Middle School in Rio Rancho.

2. Purchase at least the basic supplies – pencils, paper, a binder and an agenda – before the start of school. Teachers will give students more specific requests after the start of the school year.

3. Find out, if possible, who will be your child’s homeroom or point-of-contact teacher for the year and contact them to establish a line of communication.

“The year will always go better when the first interaction is a positive one,” Tharinger said.

4. For students, the most important tip, Tharinger said, is to find a method of organization that works for them and stick with it for the entire year. He said middle school is very different from elementary because students will have multiple projects and assignments happening at the same time. He said being organized helps students stay on top of things and avoid procrastination.

5. Tharinger said that above all, students should have fun and enjoy the new things that come with being in middle school.

Ninth grade

Cynthia Medina, Bernalillo High School English teacher and department chair

Cynthia Medina

1. Stay involved. “For parents, your freshman needs you more than ever,” said Bernalillo High School English teacher Cynthia Medina. “They are coming into a culture where they need their academics as well as social skills.”

She said some parents mistakenly believe because the students are older they don’t have to be as involved or not involved at all. She said parents should make sure their contact information is updated with the front office and they should log into the parent portal frequently throughout the school year to check grades and attendance. She said it’s easy for students to give up when things become overwhelming but the family connection with the school will help keep them invested.

“They think ‘They are in high school. We don’t have to worry about them anymore,'” Medina said. “But if they want them to go to college, they have to do well starting now.”

2. Join clubs, organizations or sports. “They need that social aspect to have fun,” Medina said. “They need that balance to do well academically.”

3. Work hard and the grades will reflect that effort.

4. Do not disconnect at the end of the school day. School does not stop at 2:30 in afternoon. That learning continues and homework is inevitable.

5. Take care of yourself mentally and physically. Eating healthy and getting a good night’s sleep are important. Medina said some students stay up well past midnight while others skip lunch. She said being tired or hungry can interfere with academic performance.