With the academic year set to start Tuesday, a buzz of excitement is in the air for both Lauren Casper and Kyle Petrashek.
The two are geared to not only start another year of school, but start their first year in the Wauwatosa School District. Petrashek, a second-grade teacher moving from the Madison area, and Casper, a freshman coming from the Arrowhead School District, are both bracing themselves for what's in store.
Small town feel in big city
Petrashek is moving from Verona, a city west of Madison with a population of roughly 10,000. Living on the border of Milwaukee and Wauwatosa, he said, he is amazed at the tight-knit feeling of the neighborhood.
After he got his undergraduate degree in sports management from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, he realized that he enjoyed working with children and went to UW-Milwaukee for his teaching certification.
Coming to Wauwatosa to work at Madison Elementary School has been a good move, he said.
"We're across from a huge park, and it feels like we have all the big city stuff but we can just hang out and relax," he said.
Relaxation in the classroom is important to him as well. He said his teaching style is to create a classroom environment of relaxation and peace so that students can feel comfortable to work on their academics.
Much has changed in the classroom since Petrashek was a second-grader, mainly the introduction of technologies such as electronic whiteboards and tablet computers. Technology has not only changed the medium in which many students learn, but according to Petrashek, their motivation "shoots through the roof" when a tablet or laptop computer is introduced into the classroom.
One of Petrashek's teaching techniques is to use a voice recorder to help students read. He has them record themselves reading aloud throughout the year and then play the recordings back to themselves. That way, he said, the students can hear their progress in a meaningful way.
Classroom structure also has changed since Petrashek was in second grade. Instead of orderly rows of desks, his classroom is set up with clusters of tables. Each seat in the table faces each other. This is no coincidence. He focuses on group learning and having the students participate in every aspect of the classroom.
"We talk so much at the beginning of the year about routines and expectations and, through that, the students learn their place and that they're a significant piece to the puzzle," he added.
Casper is new to Wauwatosa as well. Her family moved to the district from the Hartland area and she's feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement about going to Wauwatosa West High School.
While she said she'll be missing her old friends, she's already started to make new ones.
An avid cross country runner, she's been in the Wauwatosa program this summer. She's one of two freshmen on the team and looks up to a lot of the older girls, who she said make her laugh and feel at ease.
Sept. 3 won't mark her first day in the doors at Wauwatosa West. Last year she shadowed her cousin, who attends West, and got to meet many of the teachers and a few students. Everyone seemed nice, and she is expecting her teachers this year to be fun.
She said she hasn't heard much about West, except that its plays are a lot of fun — so she hopes to try out for a play this year.
"I just really look forward to being in high school," she said. "I've heard so many things about how high school is a good four years and you meet so many new people."
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