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Back to school: Teachers prepare for Friday
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Riverbend Elementary second-grade teacher Brandi Syfan works in her classroom Tuesday afternoon in preparation for the new school year beginning on Friday.

As the start of school looms, teachers throughout Gainesville and Hall County have started their preparations for the first bell Friday morning.

Earlier this week, teachers began reporting to campus, preparing rooms, courses of study and themselves for their new students.

“It’s going to be a little crazy because the kids are going to be excited to meet the new teachers and their new classmates and just being back in school,” said Brandi Syfan, a first-year teacher at Riverbend Elementary. “But I know we have a lot (of) good things ready for them. It’s going to be organized, but it may get a little hectic at times, but I think it’s going to go over really smoothly.”

Hall County Schools elementary faculty started back, officially, Tuesday and middle and high school teachers reported Thursday.

School — for both the county and city systems — starts Friday.

Dave McConnell, a history teacher at Gainesville High School, has been in education for more than three decades.

He said the days leading up to the first day of school are essential to starting the year right.

“The first day sets the tone,” he said. “You got to get your room ready, you got to get your syllabus ready, you got to make all the preparations for the students.”

Gainesville City Schools faculty reported to campus Monday, following an online training session last Friday.

They will be in meetings and collaborating with administrators and other faculty members leading into Friday.

“Also you work with other teachers that teach the same subject you do to try and plan together and get unit plans ready and sometimes try and get as much of the first semester planned out as you can,” said McConnell.

And being prepared gives the teachers a first step to reaching their students.

“If you’re not prepared, kids can tell and they’ll take advantage,” said Jennifer Dickerson, an anatomy teacher at Gainesville High.

But teachers are quick to point out not all preparation is done just days prior to the start of school.

Throughout the summer, teachers are attending conferences, planning the next year and participating in professional learning.

Christi Conti, an English teacher at Gainesville High, said she went to Miami this summer to attend a workshop on how to better prepare Latino students for college.

Since returning, she has thought of ways to implement that into her class and share with her co-workers.

And that collaboration is evident in other schools, as well.

“Luckily, all of the second-grade teachers are really close,” said Syfan. “We all plan together as a grade level. So they’ve been really helpful and all have great ideas.”

Last year, Gainesville City Schools had six teacher workdays and two “choice days.”

This year, eight planning days have been scheduled, but five of them come prior to the start of school.

Hall County Schools has put aside five scheduled planning days, with an option to add a post-planning day at the end of school.

But for teachers, the time crunch comes along with the job and they’re just excited for the first school bus to arrive Friday morning.

“I’m just as excited now as I was in 1981,” said McConnell.

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