August 13, 2008

Getting Ready to Make a Difference

By Bob Otto

YUCAIPA - The message on the marquee in front of Ridgeview Elementary School reads: "Making A Difference."

On Tuesday, it should have read: "Getting Ready To Make A Difference" - because that's what several of the school's teachers were doing ... getting their classrooms ready for the Yucaipa- Calimesa Joint Unified School District's first day of school on Monday.

None of the teachers had to be at school on Tuesday, because officially their first day back begins Wednesday. Most of them were just eager to get started.

But none were more eager than Ame Stohler and Wendy Montgomery. Stohler teaches first grade and Montgomery teaches fifth. Both began their teaching careers at Ridgeview eight years ago, and every year they help each other decorate and organize their classrooms.

"It's fun helping each other," Stohler said. "We've been coming in all summer long clearing out clutter. It's out with the old and in with the new."

But all the cleaning and the organizing does serve a useful purpose.

When the kids walk into their classrooms, it's important they feel welcomed, said Montgomery.

"An organized classroom gives students a sense of welcoming and comfort," she said. "They see that you care about them, and they feel comfortable in the classroom, and we can jump right into the curriculum."

On Tuesday, Stohler's classroom looked primed for learning. She arranged students' desks - four each - into square units. Each desk had a textbook and study materials at the ready.

There were signs of creative decorating all over the room. But it took two heads to bring it to this level.

"We collaborate on ideas," said Stohler. "We ask, 'How do you teach this?' Or 'how do you do that?' We keep adding on and building from sharing ideas."

In Montgomery's room, Denise VonWald and her daughter, Breana, 10, stopped by for a visit. Breana, who will enter the sixth grade, was a student of Montgomery's last year.

VonWald said she's impressed with Montgomery's ability to organize a classroom.

"It tells you a lot about the teacher and how organized and thorough they are," she said.

In her sixth-grade classroom, Susan SteinerLund was busy hanging posters on her walls. She's a first-year teacher at Ridgeview. And this will be her first year teaching sixth graders. SteinerLund has already established a theme for the start of the school year entitled, "Born To Rule."

"I'm going to post it on the inside of the door, so that they see it in the classroom and every time they leave," she said. Her goal is to instill integrity, character, responsibility and a good attitude in her students.

But she was also in a decorating mood. She hung bright green and blue construction paper with posters and charts attached.

"I like bright colors," she said. "It wakes everybody up, and it's enticing and exciting for sixth-graders."

Sandi Bakenhus is about to begin her 18th year at Ridgeview.

Every year she starts early to have her room ready for her students.

"Getting a room ready gets kids excited about the start of school," said Bakenhus, who teaches second grade.

Ridgeview Principal Linda Moffett wasn't surprised that so many teachers were at the school on Tuesday.

"We've always had dedicated teachers," said Moffett. "They are always anxious to get started and get ready for the kids. I love this staff, and I know that they will be ready on Monday."

(c) 2008 The Sun, San Bernardino, Calif.. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.