It’s time to go back to school


It’s time to go back to school

10:07 a.m. PDT September 7, 2016

The beginning of a new school year can be both nerve-wracking and exciting.

Students are ready to see their friends after months of separation — and make new friends. They are about to be exposed to a lot of new information, and they are thinking about what they want to tell everyone they did over summer.

Tuesday, sixth and ninth graders in the Salem-Keizer School District go back to school, a day before most of the other grades. This gives them a cushion to learn the lay of their new land.

But let’s take a look back at some familiar faces from when they took on these same challenges.

Can you guess who this is?


(Photo: Courtesy photo)

Answer: Salem-Keizer Superintendent Christy Perry

Christy Perry said she was a student who was wired for school.

“I loved it and couldn’t wait for summer to end and school to start,” she said. “I loved new pencils and couldn’t wait to get to the library and check out new books.

“I remember being a bit disappointed that book check-out often didn’t start until a few weeks into the school year.”

Perry said her favorite recess games were kickball, tetherball and four-square. She remembers her first grade teacher, Mrs. Pepiot, who she described as “kind and patient.”

“She let me take home extra books because I was reading when I started first grade,” Perry said.

The Salem-Keizer School District was home to more than 41,400 students last year, making it the second largest district in the state. There are 65 schools in the district.

During the summer, the district helped coordinate and put on dozens of summer programs, which served about 11,000 local students.

For the new year, Perry had a piece of advice for the students: “Work hard, but remember teachers and staff at school are here to help you learn, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

“Read as much as you can as often as you can!” she said.

Can you guess who this is?

Answer: Silver Falls Superintendent Andy Bellando

Andy Bellando is the superintendent of the Silver Falls School District, which also began its 2016-17 school year Tuesday.

He said he was always excited to go back to school each fall, “coupled with a nervous energy” that made him perform “even better and enjoy it more.”

“It’s true to this day,” he said.

Silver Falls has 13 schools in the district, and is home to about 3,700 students.

“My advice to students starting, and returning, this year: Each of our schools is full of adults who are caring, positive role models and they understand that being a student is hard work,” Bellando said. “Find at least one school adult each year who you can turn to for guidance and support.”

Can you guess who the boy on the right is?

Answer: Gervais School District Superintendent Matt Henry

After kindergarten in Canby, Matt Henry spent 12 years in the North Marion school district.

“I loved school in general, especially recess!” he said.

He said they were “able to do many, many things in classrooms you’d not see today.”

“I use to provide bullfrogs and salamanders from ponds and ditches near my house — five or six at a time — to my fifth grade teacher, and we would then dissect them in class for science lessons,” he said. “My mother use to consistently bring cookies and brownies into the classrooms … on Fridays.”

Henry said he loved all sports, P.E. and Future Farmers of America in high school.

He advised students to think about this: “Education is ‘changed behavior’…Education today is a challenge, and like a job, it is directly tied to a young person’s future and well-being; it is, in other words, an investment in one’s self.”

Can you guess who this is?

Answer: Statesman Journal Reporter Natalie Pate

I was always eager to go back to school and, like Christy Perry, anxious to get my hands on new books and school supplies.

One of my favorite back-to-school stories is actually not about me, it’s about my brother.

On Tim’s first day of kindergarten, my parents were called by his teacher.

They thought, “What could he have done on the first day to have the teacher call home?”

The teacher asked my parents to please explain to Tim that she was not a stranger.

My parents were confused.

Turns out, my brother refused to take food from his kindergarten teacher because “he could not take candy from strangers.”

Contact Natalie Pate at, 503-399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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