Posted: Friday, January 29, 2016

The first day of school can be overwhelming, especially when you’re a first-year teacher with a classroom of five-year-olds. We met Leslie Deneen, a first-year kindergarten teacher at Augusta Circle Elementary, last fall when she told us that her first day didn’t go exactly as she had planned. On a recent visit back to her classroom, Leslie is excited to tell us how her year is progressing and how much she has learned since that first day.

Leslie Deneen with a female elementary student

“I’ve grown so much more confident in my decisions,” she explained. “That has really helped me make the best decisions for my students.” While she (thankfully!) won’t have to re-do the first day as a new teacher, she said that if she did it over again, she would tell herself to relax and that everything would be fine even if it didn’t go as well as planned.  “There are so many other days that I could work out everything that didn’t go perfectly. If I did it again I would just get to know these students and make them feel welcome and not worry about the little details.”

Deneen has been overwhelmed with the support she’s received as a beginning teacher. “Parents have been so wonderful. The whole school and the students have been so kind and it really blew me out of the water as a first year teacher to be so accepted and cared for,” she said.

Leslie Deneen at a table with studentsFellow kindergarten teacher Lauren Owens, who is also Deneen’s mentor, said working with Leslie has been great. “We are looking at new standards and new curriculum and using some of our old strategies to teach the new standards. I’ve been able to give Leslie some good advice about what has worked in the past.”

Leslie Deneen with a female colleague

Looking ahead, Deneen has set one high expectation for her students. “What’s really most important is for them to leave this year being confident in themselves and their ability to learn. I want school to be an exciting place for them. I want them to remember kindergarten and think, that’s when I really started to love school,” she said, smiling.

Deneen knows she’ll be successful for the remainder of the year, and is already planning to make some changes for the future. “I’m looking at things and evaluating whether I like doing it or should I change it next year,” she said. “I want to re-evaluate everything I did this year and see what I need to take that works great and what I need to leave behind.”

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