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First-year teacher Kristen Gregory helps her students Hallie Proffitt, Ethan Mills and Seth Elkins with a Cookie Monster lesson.

With her giant pink bow clipped to her hair, Kendal Baker sat fast asleep with her head on her desk Wednesday. Nearby, fellow kindergartner Hallie Proffitt busily tied the laces on Zach Whitaker’s shoes. In the background, Cookie Monster spoke to the rest of the kids from the SMART board.

“Me think we can make another word with these noodle letters,” he said.

All the while, Kristen Gregory finished her first day of school as a teacher at Bush Elementary School.

“It actually went really good,” she said. “I can honestly say that.”

The kindergartners of classroom 126 spent Wednesday learning the ins and outs of their new school.

“We spent our time lining up and going from place to place,” Gregory said.

Three visits were made to the cafeteria, one each for breakfast, lunch and snack.

“That’s where we got our lining up done,” Gregory laughed.

The kids also checked out the playground and learned some lessons on the SMART board. Gregory said her students took the new experiences in stride.

“I only had one cry,” she said. “That’s better than 28 crying or else I would have run out crying myself.”

Gregory wasn’t the only one who considered her first day a success. Superintendent David Young said things worked like clockwork Wednesday.

“It was a really good day,” he said. “Things went better than expected. We were very pleased with it. I was more than happy.”

Young said it takes three to five days for enrollment to stabilize, after which the district begins the process of either hiring or transferring teachers to offset classrooms with too many or too few students.

Across the district, there were four fewer students than last year, but enrollment was up by 40 at Bush Elementary and by 20 at Cold Hill Elementary and South Laurel High School.

For her part, Gregory, 24, was relieved she was able to get her spot at Bush.

“I was ready for kindergarten,” she said. “I was OK with any grade though. As long as I can be a teacher, I would have been happy ... I am so lucky to have gotten a job this year, period.”

Gregory managed to maintain her gratitude even when it came time to organize home time, with one group heading to the bus, another getting picked up by parents and a third heading to after-school day care. The logistics of the process with 28 students turned out to be dizzying, but Gregory remained patient with her new class.

Eventually, all the kids were headed home and Gregory spent the last few minutes of her day tidying up her room. She admitted exhaustion as she smiled.

“They’re going to be sleeping all night tonight,” she said. “They won’t have any trouble sleeping. I won’t either.”

Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at tkaprowy@sentinel-echo.com.

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