Students get ready for kindergarten |

Students get ready for kindergarten

by Teri Vance, Appeal Staff Writer

Pre-kindergartner Jocelyn Adrian,4, gets in touch with her inner shutterbug at the pre-k class at Mark Twain Elementary Tuesday morning. photo by Rick Gunn

Stephanie Aparra, who turns 4 today, sat at a table rolling a piece of green clay into a long thin tube. She said it was a turtle.

As long as she can remember, Stephanie has wanted to go to school just like her big brother Bogart, who is in the sixth grade.

“She’s been asking us and asking us when she can go to school,” said her father, Joel Aparra. “She even cries because she wants to go.”

But she dried her tears Tuesday on the first day of a new pre-kindergarten program at Mark Twain Elementary School designed to help students prepare socially and academically for school.

“My dad took me here and my mom, too,” she said. “My brother went here.”

For others, the tears started with the first day of a new school. Clutching wadded tissues, Daisy cried in the corner and Kyle cried at the table.

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However, teacher Paula Baum has taught kindergarten for 10 years and is used to emotional first days.

“I expected that,” she said. “But it’s gone very well. Nobody’s crying anymore. They’re active and doing what we’d hoped — talking to each other and trying new things.”

Patrick Hanses, 4, donned the required plastic apron and dove into the water toys.

“There’s a lot of kids and toys here,” he said. “I’m showing all these kids how the boat goes in the water.”

After free time, the students were gathered into a circle where they sang, “The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.”

And Baum introduced the children to her hand puppet, Curiosity the Cat. Curiosity then asked each child, “Who are you?” or “C-mo se llama?”

When Leonardo introduced himself, Curiosity replied, “There was once an artist and a Ninja Turtle by that name.”

The program is part of a three-year federal grant to prepare students for school.

“Children will be exposed to books and numbers and how to get along,” Baum said. “Some of my kids were coming into kindergarten with no exposure to literacy.”

It gives them a feel for what’s in store.

“I’m going to go to pre-kindergarten because I got a shot,” Corey Jasper, 4, said. “It’s fun because it’s big school.”

And with big school comes big hopes.

Immigrants from Mexico and Nicaragua, the Aparras said they wanted their daughter to value education and speak both Spanish and English fluently.

“We’re trying to help her be ready,” said Leida Aparra, Stephanie’s mother.

They left Stephanie at school, but took home a Polaroid portrait of her first day.