TAR HEEL — Inside the main hallway, activity was bustling.
A line formed for information on buses. Teachers stood by their doors, or were just inside their classroom with a smile and answers to any question.
Larrissa Kulikoski, a sixth-grade math teacher, was sought out frequently by youngsters she taught a year ago. A tepid newcomer or two quickly warmed to her friendly welcome.
“It’s good for them to come in,” she said of the students and their parents making their way to the Bladen County Schools’ annual Open House. Schools throughout the county had staggered starting and ending times Thursday, giving parents and children a chance to meet and greet the educators.
School started Monday.
“They get to see the main hall,” Kulikoski continued, referring to the setup in the venerable building along N.C. 87 where fifth-graders come forward to the long corridor that parallels the highway. “They get to see who their classmates will be.”
Principal Teresa Coleman is also in her second year at the school, her 31st in education — all in the friendly confines of Bladen schools. She knows a number of the students’ parents have walked the halls before them.
“Middle school is a very important time,” she said. “They are learning their social skills. There’s a lot of growing up.”
She credits her staff for a total buy-in to providing more than a classroom, to building relationships.
“Our thing this year is to connect to students and parents,” Coleman said. “This is the first step. We get contact information, and we want them to come out and support us. And in this part of the county, they are very supportive.”
At Bladen Lakes Primary earlier in the day, Principal Dia Collins-Thomas echoed the sentiment. She’s hopeful her school of about 200 will be able to start a parent-teacher organization.
“It was a great first year; I had a great support system,” Thomas said of her first year there in 2017-18. “Our champion teachers were wonderful. I was new but not alone. My heart smiles on that.”
She said her staff is good about giving feedback. For that reason, she’s hopeful that programs from last year might be enhanced and new ones can be added.
The new year brings a fresh look. With it, perhaps a few moments of nerves also come for the children. And they’re not alone.
“Every year,” a smiling Kulikoski says of the nerves, assuring middle school teaching is her comfort zone. “Even seeing the same kids that will be back in my classroom, seeing if they’re excited to be back.”
Larrissa Kulikoski, a sixth-grade math teacher at Tar Heel Middle School, welcomes Antuan Martinez at Thursday’s Open House.
Aiden Robeson, a third-grader, gets a friendly welcome to his new school from Principal Dia Collins-Thomas at Bladen Lakes Primary during Thursday’s Open House. Max Robeson, his father, said they moved here from Camden.
Larrissa Kulikoski, a sixth-grade math teacher at Tar Heel Middle School, chats with Dalton Huff and his family at Thursday’s Open House.
Principal Dia Collins-Thomas helps Joseluis Garcia find his way at Bladen Lakes Primary during Thursday’s Open House. His mother, Aidee Garcia, is alongside along with partially hidden Leilany Garcia.
Principal Victoria Clark, right, and pre-kindergarten teacher Ollie Maultsby are at the front of the lines to high-five students arriving on the first bus at East Arcadia School in Riegelwood on Monday morning. Bus 17 rolled in with students excited to begin the new year.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @alanwooten19.