Fifth grade teacher Lynn Turner felt right at home during her first day at Mark Twain Elementary School on Thursday, Aug. 18.

Fifth grade teacher Lynn Turner felt right at home during her first day at Mark Twain Elementary School on Thursday, Aug. 18.

The fifth grade class may have been larger than her previous third grade classes in Paris, but she learned everyone’s names early in the day.

When the first day came around, Turner and her students shared in the successful experience together.

Her students wrote letters outlining five things they hope to learn or do during the school year. They will open the sealed envelopes at the end of the year, when many of them will be surprised about their handwriting’s appearance or how far they’ve come in spelling, Turner said. 

Then, the children engaged in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activity — working together in small teams to turn a bright green sheet of paper and glue into the longest paper chain in the class.

Turner walked from table to table, observing a wide variety of strategies at play. Some teams cut slender, long strips, while other groups fashioned as many small links as they could. She said the activity “was all about thinking” — putting every student on a level playing field and offering a chance to experience science to a child who might be apprehensive about the subject.

Gabriel Glenn said the paper chain activity was his favorite part of the day. His team decided to construct two separate chains with extremely thin strips of paper, joining them together as one in the end. Glenn’s classmate Aubrey Cromie most enjoyed writing the letter about class expectations.

“We had to do it individually,” she said. “We had to see how we could do it by ourselves.” Cromie said she looked forward to learning with Turner.

“The teacher’s nice,” she said. “I like her.”

Turner said one of the highlights of her day began when she welcomed students of all ages and parents to the school. A fourth grade student walked up to her and asked, “Are you a new teacher here?”

After Turner told her about her new class, the student extended her hand and introduced herself.

Turner was pleasantly surprised by the student’s mature behavior, attributing it to the Leader in Me School ideals within the school. Several of her students stepped up as leaders, assisting fellow team members, picking up trash and returning chairs with out being asked. The class also helped guide their new teacher through the school building throughout the day.

The prior week, Turner and fellow first-time Hannibal teachers completed a workshop that included a tour of the district’s buildings and outlines of expectations. Turner witnessed the level of community support, professionalism and welcoming nature of the Hannibal school district. First-time teacher Kendra Johnston, who teaches fourth grade at Mark Twain Elementary School, expressed similar sentiments.

Johnston noticed the distinct personalities of each school, especially the unique atmosphere in elementary school classrooms. She also noticed a common thread throughout the school district.

“We’re all a team, and we’re all family,” Johnston said.

Doug Coleman, who teaches at Hannibal High School following a ten-year stint at Westminster Christian Academy, noticed that school administrators — like workshop leaders Superintendent Susan Johnson and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Maria Mundle — made district expectations very clear for the incoming teachers.

“Our administrators are great leaders,” he said.

Turner noticed the strong leadership during her first day, too, as Principal Karen Wheelan popped in to say, “So, how’s your first day going?”

Fellow faculty members also offered support, asking about her day and how she was doing. Turner smiled when she commended her “great group of kiddos, all around.”

“It’s just been a great day,” Turner said. “It really has. It’s been really fast.”

Turner said she looks forward to many years with the Hannibal school district and Mark Twain Elementary School.

“I’m just really excited and I feel really blessed to be a part of this building and this district,” she said.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com