By Sarah Colson
Walking her daughter to her first day of school, Christy McInturff Huret asked Reagan what she was most excited about. “The cafeteria,” Reagan said, beaming with her brand new backpack and lunchbox.
“I know the cafeteria and the classroom and my art teacher and I know everything,” Reagan told News & Neighbor a week before her classes started.
The confident Reagan had already explored the school a bit with her mom, this year’s PTA fundraising chair. Thanks to that experience, last Wednesday Reagan jumped right into the cafeteria for her first roll call, but not before making friends with another new school-goer, one who is just as passionate about the Nickelodeon show, “Shimmer and Shine,” as she is.
After easily making friends, Reagan waved off her parents and trotted behind her new classmates headed to Mrs. Hannah Arnold’s class.
“I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time, since I’ve had her,” Christy said, “but now it’s just different. … She just waved us away like, ‘why are you still here?’ We’re melancholy a little. I can’t believe our little girl is starting school.”
Reagan’s readiness stems from her experiences in pre-k since she was just 10 weeks old. Both Christy and Reagan’s dad, Steve work as full-time attorneys, which means Reagan has spent much of her time learning the ins and outs of school in her pre-k class. Reagan can already read and write her name, count to 100 and sight-read some words.
“We read a lot as a family,” Christy said. “She likes to read, loves to color; she’s got a huge imagination. I’m just amazed.”
Reagan’s curious, confident attitude is something Woodland principal Dr. Karen Reach said makes transitioning from pre-k to kindergarten smoother.
She’s so confident,” Reach said of Reagan. “When we step back and think about kindergarten, we have all levels of learners coming to us. … We are going to welcome all those levels into our kindergarten classrooms.”
Reach said that while there are standards that would be ideal for all kindergarteners to know before starting school – things like knowing their numbers and letters – the most important part of kindergarten is that the students understand their teachers care deeply about them. “If students don’t know you care for them, then they’re not going to work for you, they’re not going to feel comfortable in learning,” Reach said. “That relationship is key.”
For now, Reagan isn’t too concerned with official school jargon, her new teacher’s strategies or passing benchmarks. And her parents hope it remains that way for at least a few more years.
“It’s hard to believe she’s actually starting her formal academic career,” Steve said. “Everything up until now has been fun; and learning, that’s fun too, but now it’ll never be the same again. She’s starting that formalized process for the next 20 plus years.”
“We don’t care what she does with her life, as long as she’s happy,” Christy added. “I do want her to be successful in her own right, whatever she defines success as. We don’t expect her to be a lawyer. We’d be thrilled if she was, but … work is a four letter word. I love what I do, Steve likes what he does. I just want her to be able to find that, too.”
Reagan said that her dream job wouldn’t be in the field of law, but as the early 2000’s cartoon, super girl and crime fighter, Kim Possible. According to her parents, that’s a much cooler aspiration than her original dream: to be a princess.
The News & Neighbor would like to echo what Reach said to all the kindergarten parents in the Washington County and Johnson City school systems starting back to class: “The journey from pre-k to 12th grade is so rapid. Savor every moment. Love every year of learning with your child because before you blink, that little pre-k, that little kindergartener, is going to be leaving fourth grade. And once they leave elementary school, it’s just gone. The next thing you know they’re in high school and the next thing you know they’re graduating. Enjoy every moment and create memories with your little one.”
News & Neighbor began its annual feature of a new kindergartener two years ago with South Side Elementary schooler David Barbour. As David began the walk home from South Side Aug. 2, it was as a second grader with an added responsibility. Tracy and David (his father) Barbour had sent their youngest, Daniel, to kindergarten that day.
Wheeling his scooter to a stop, his brother by his side, David recounted a summer filled with an ideal mix of fun. Swimming and fishing blended with one of his favorite pursuits, reading.
Of his first half-day in Monica Hart’s second-grade classroom, David said, “It was good, I guess.”
David became most animated when his mom reminded him he’d found a book his older brother had tucked away. “Sir Fartsalot!” he said. Knowing that David enjoyed the adventures of the potent knight is a good sign that David is ready for second grade, South Side Principal Dr. Anne Littleford said.
“When they enter 2nd grade, most of them are already reading,” she said. “They’ll actually be able to talk about what they’ve read by the end of 2nd grade. They’re just taking it a step further.”
Also taking things a step further this year is Reagan Sutterlin, who you might remember following last year at this time as she took her first steps into kindergarten.
“We have been outside for most of the summer,” Reagan’s mom, Jessica Sutterlin, said. “We’ve gone hiking; we’ve gone to Roan Mountain with friends, a lot of playing in the water. We’ve just been outside, which has been really great.”
Reagan is looking forward to learning how to read so that she can read the book series her older sister, Emmalynne, has read. And according to Towne Acres Principal Dr. Steve Barnett, that desire to learn how to read will set Reagan up nicely for first.
“We want them to read naturally and enjoy it and love it,” Barnett said. “We’ve got a great team of teachers and staff members. I’m really excited about this year. I had a good summer and now I’m looking forward to a great year. It’s a great place to work. Johnson City is a great place to live. I’m excited to be here and work here.”