Kasey Andrew, 9, has high hopes for the new school year. The Scottsdale student hopes to become the president of the fifth grade at Copper Ridge Elementary School this year.
"Moving up to fifth grade is a big change. We’re the head of the elementary school now," she said. "It makes a lot of pressure because we have to make sure that we set a good example, which is hard because we just want to have fun."
On Monday, the first day of classes in the Scottsdale Unified School District, Kasey was excited to show friends her three-ring binder, which she had decorated with cheetahs and photographs of pop star Hilary Duff.
Students weren’t the only people at school with big expectations for the year.
"It was a very good first day," said Kasey’s teacher, Nanette Hubbell.
"It seemed like everything I’d bring up, (the students) would ask questions about," she said. "They were working together and helping one another — I could see that right off the bat."
Hubbell, who has 24 years of teaching experience, doesn’t waste any time on the first day — her students started projects and received homework assignments. Right away, she set the stage for the class’ yearlong theme, "Seeds of Change," which will include learning about the American Revolution.
In keeping with the theme, students planted their own sunflower seeds on Monday.
Through its "Start Smart" program, district Superintendent John Baracy has spent his summer convincing parents that the first day matters.
On that day, teachers said, students make new friends and learn things such as how to find the restroom and how to proceed in case of a lockdown or a fire.
Hubbell’s students spent a lot of time learning classroom procedures on Monday, including restroom locations and how to speak quietly.
If students whine too much, Hubbell warned, she will pull out a large "No Whining" badge and wear it.
"Sometimes it doesn’t match my clothes, so don’t make me get to this point," she told her students.
The first day is also a way to get children excited about the upcoming year, Hubbell said.
"I really want to learn about the solar system, and I want to do more art projects," said 10-year old Chandler Kenney.
Later, the fifth-graders completed the first part of a weeklong project.
They measured themselves with string, limb by limb, then scaled down the measurements and drew small replicas of themselves.
"It’s a way to introduce them to scale drawings, proportion and to see if they understand fractions," Hubbell said. "That’s a skill that comes down the road. But it’s to get them starting thinking about it and how it applies to their real life."