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Early start to year can't mask back-to-school excitement

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Taking time for a little table talk, Ridpath Primary School Principal Shawn Gobert stoops to chat with students Dillon Eversole (left) and Grace Clodfelter in Heather Miller's first-grade classroom.
Like opening day of baseball season, the first day of a new school year is always awash with optimism and excitement.

It's a rebirth of sorts, a new beginning. Everyone starts out with a perfect record and a clean slate. Everyone's batting a thousand.

Smiling children file off big yellow buses in brightly colored, freshly laundered shirts and dresses, empowered by their ever-wise moms to make that good first impression on a new teacher. Backpacks are crisp. Pencils are sharp. Let the learning begin!

Yes, it's the first day of another school year Wednesday morning, and Greencastle students are getting an earlier start than the rest of Putnam County as the buses pull up in front of Ridpath Primary.

Parents, many still a year away from humming "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," accompany kindergarteners to their classrooms, hiding their own tears as a few youngsters shed theirs.

But for the most part, it's a group of happy campers being greeted by Ridpath Principal Shawn Gobert in his second year at the primary level.

Second-grade teacher Courtenay Hayes reads to her Ridpath Primary class as Principal Shawn Gobert looks on during the first day of school Wednesday.
Gobert calls out enthusiastically to twins David and William Johnston, coming back as first-graders this year, as mom Meggan Johnston snaps their photo together in front of a Ridpath welcome sign that beckons like a Kodak moment.

Another first-grader, Caden Downen, tries to hustle on past the principal with mom Jamie keeping pace, but the personable Gobert stops him and bends down to the boy's level to welcome him back as well.

It's getting close to the opening bell now, although Ridpath staff will soon learn the bells aren't working in conjunction with the new school schedule. Just a first-day snafu to be sure.

Regardless, Gobert must move ahead to the first installment of his morning ritual. It's time for opening announcements, which begin with welcoming new and old students alike to the building. But for a missing school lunch menu, it's a snap.

Second-graders Madison Moore and Ryan Beauchamp are in the office to assist with those morning announcements, including the "Pledge of Allegiance" and the Ridpath Star cheer.

However, Gobert makes the mistake of telling the whole school the two second-graders are nervous.

"Why did you say we were nervous?" Beauchamp asks after the announcements are finished.

"You told me you were," Gobert smiles, making a graceful save by relating how nervous he was just the other day when he had to stand up in front of all the teachers in the corporation and make a presentation.

That seems to restore peace, and it's time for everyone to settle into his or her respective classroom. And that means it's time for Principal Gobert to make the rounds and say hello to staff and students on Day 1.

Crouching to listen as first-grader Roanin Wasson (dark shirt) shares a story, Ridpath Primary School Principal Shawn Gobert also engages Scott Young in conversation in Kimberly Clark's classroom.
"Hey, you're our principal," one little fellow announces as he enters Joanna Muncie's cheery kindergarten class.

Gobert laughs, explaining how last year he kept a list on his Blackberry of the names students thought were right when they addressed him.

He's been called Mr. Gopher, Mr. Grover and even Mr. Yogurt, yet he's answered to all of them.

Today, Heather Miller's first-grade class eagerly offers in unison, "Good morning, Mr. Gobert."

As he makes his rounds, it's easy to see the second-graders, the top of the food chain in the K-2 primary pond, have already settled into their routine. They barely acknowledge his classroom visit, appearing more interested in what their teacher is reading.

"You all look tired," Gobert offers. "I think the second-graders are all staying up too late."

Teacher Tonia Dibble has a theory. "They all said they were too excited to sleep."

Still, Gobert gets a hug or two from a couple of students.

And that always moves him.

"That last kid who hugged me?" he pointed out, "he was the first kid I disciplined last year."

Gobert, then in his first year at Ridpath following his tenure at the middle school, had to take the boy aside to quietly tell him he had to sit still in class, and pay attention to his teacher and not disrupt others.

"He reached out and hugged me," Gobert said. "I thought right then, 'Wow, eighth-graders don't do that.'"

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-- Posted by interested party on Thu, Aug 9, 2012, at 7:46 AM

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