Lilly and Delaney Phelps were in good spirits Monday morning for the first day of school at Challis Elementary School. Above, Lilly, a kindergartner, and Delaney, a fifth grader, exchange a laugh with their mother, Denae, as she takes them into school. 

As a steady stream of parents dropped their children off at Challis Elementary School for the first day of school Monday, there was a trend. Students who marched into the elementary school doors or posed for photos out front for their parents had more smiles on their faces than their older counterparts who walked down the road toward Challis Junior-Senior High School.

Some were quiet; a few looked nervous. There were hugs and laughter but no tears; probably because most parents walked inside with their children.

Third grade in Annie Taylor’s class began with introductions and questions designed to get to know one another. She kept the students’ attention and confessed that by the end of the first day they seemed to have more stamina than she did. Like most Challis teachers, Taylor likely had days of long hours preparing her classroom and lesson plans before school began.

One of the first things Taylor pointed out to her students was the Golden Rule, the gold-colored words displayed prominently on black background in front of the classroom: “Treat others the way you WANT to be treated.”

Taylor told her students she would do her best to make learning fun for them this year and asked about their favorite subjects to study in school – excluding recess or lunch. She asked some to tell what was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for them or the nicest thing they’d done for someone else.

The most fun thing one girl did over the summer was to go to Lagoon theme park near Salt Lake City. She rode the roller coasters and a scary, dark, but fun ride called the Cannibal.

Another student said helping his mom clean motel rooms this summer was fun, as was earning money in the process.

One boy enjoyed playing on his tablet and riding his bicycle. He hopes his dad will buy him a dirt bike.

Asked what she likes best about her family, one girl said, “That they play with me.” Another student likes getting rewards from her family when she’s good. Students will get rewards for good behavior in class this year, Taylor said.

Taylor showed students that she’d written each of their names on a clothespin so she could move the clothespins up and down a scale of good to bad behavior. The top of the scale is “Outstanding!” Bellow that is “Great Job!” “Good Day,” “Ready to Learn,” “Think about It,” “Time out in Class,” “Time out at Recess,” and at the bottom, “Office/Parent Contact.” Taylor said she’d never had a student make it to the bottom rung of the behavior ladder and she hopes to maintain that record.

One boy said he’s glad his family is nice and even his 12-year-old sister is nice to him. That’s a quality you don’t see in every 12-year-old, Taylor told him.

One girl liked that her grandfather made her a guitar and her uncle is teaching her how to play it. She hopes to bring it to class for show and tell, but wants to wait until after her mother gives birth to her new little sister.

Two boys said their favorite subject is math. One boy likes math “because it’s fun.” The other likes the subject because he likes playing with numbers.

One boy likes reading best and taking tests afterward to show what he’s learned. A girl said she likes doing science experiments. She’s always wanted to become a scientist. A boy also likes science because he enjoys learning and making different things.

The nicest thing anyone ever did for one boy was, “My mom, bringing me into the world.” A girl said the nicest thing she’s ever done for someone else was to raise money for the animals at Heart of Idaho Animal Sanctuary.

When one boy sprained his ankle badly on the trampoline, his mother helped him; and that was the nicest thing anyone’s done for him so far.

Taylor asked her students what their hopes or expectations were for the school year.

For one girl, it was learning something every day so she can tell her grandmother about it. Two girls were hoping for a fun year. One said she didn’t want to get into trouble and have to sit out for recess.

Another girl hopes for new experiences and to learn a lot about Taylor as her teacher. Taylor said she had no doubt her students would learn a lot about her through her mistakes, because she makes a lot of them. However, making mistakes does not make you a dumb person, she said. If you learn from your mistakes and you don’t repeat them, that makes you smart.

Teaching third grade is a new experience for Taylor; although she’s taught other grades including kindergarten, this is her first time with third graders. She said they were very good at paying attention in class.

One girl hopes her dad will come back soon from fighting wildfires “because he can’t come home for a really long time.” Fall is nearly here, it’s cooling down, rains have come, and fire season seems to be winding down, so hopefully she gets her wish soon, Taylor said.

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