The tension in Mrs. Sandi Steele's kindergarten class at Mark Twain Elementary School on Monday was almost too much for one of her new students.
Chase peeked through his fingers at a stack of building blocks that grew bigger with every addition classmate Kameron gingerly set on top.
"It's gonna fall," Chase squealed with his hands pressed against his face.
Kameron smiled at the attention. He taunted his classmate by hovering over the stack before laying down the final tile.
The structure swayed, ever so slightly.
Both boys gasped.
But Kameron's creations held.
Chase erupted into applause.
"Ah, you're magic!" he cheered.
For 89 children at Mark Twain, Monday was their first foray into public education. For probably twice that many parents, it was a nerve-wracking goodbye to their babies.
Adriana Juarez already has a third-grader at the school. She didn't expect that when she dropped off 5-year-old Alicia, it would be as emotional as it was.
After class, Juarez stood wringing her hands waiting for her little girl to emerge.
She laughed when someone noticed her nervousness.
"I cried when I dropped her off," the mom said blushing. "I tried to not to let her see."
From learning to sit crisscross applesauce, to writing their names even if the letters looked nothing like the alphabet, Mrs. Steele's 22 morning session students had a good first day.
Steven was the only student who seemed ready to go almost as soon as he arrived.
"I miss my mom," he said quietly looking up at Mrs. Steele.
"I know you miss your mom," she said, reaching a hand around his shoulder, "but you'll have to wait a little longer."
The rest of the class, however, seemed to be OK.
Kaden, with a smattering of freckles across his nose and no sign of shyness, found a play camera and ran around taking pictures of everyone. Some of the students posed and smiled, others shied away. A couple pointed out to Kaden, who introduced himself to some classmates with a handshake as Mark, that the camera was fake.
When his mother, Adriana Gonzalez, dropped him off in the morning, she said he went straight to a seat. She stood in the doorway watching.
"Aren't you forgetting something, Mom?" Gonzalez recalled Kaden asking moments later.
"Oh, do you want a kiss?" she asked.
"No mom," Kaden told her, "You're supposed to go home."
- Contact reporter F.T. Norton at email@example.com or 881-1213.