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Teachers Prep Classrooms, Students Ready To Return
Kindergarten teacher Jessica Towner checks the status of the supply box for this table in her classroom at Dent Elementary on Friday. School bells are ringing for all students in the Escalon Unified School District today, Aug. 10. Marg Jackson/The Times

Summer vacation is officially over and students are returning to classrooms throughout the Escalon Unified School District today, Wednesday, Aug. 10.

While the kids may have just finished up the back-to-school shopping with parents and siblings over the weekend, many teachers have been busy putting their classrooms together during the past few weeks.

“I love getting to meet all the new kids,” said Kindergarten teacher Jessica Towner, working in her Dent Elementary classroom on Friday.

Now in her second year at the school, Towner said she is looking forward to another good experience with her incoming students.

“I was really close with my last group and I’m excited to see what this group will be like,” she said.

She was busy putting the finishing touches on the classroom in the Dent primary wing, making sure desks were neat and tidy, craft supplies were fully stocked and everything was in order for the first day of school for her students.

Close by, longtime teacher Nancy Brayton-John was also prepping her classroom to welcome in a new class of learners to kindergarten.

“I will have 26 on the very first day,” Brayton-John said of her class list, which includes more students than last year. “And that’s just the first day, we usually get more.”

Towner also has 26 students on her first-day list.

For Brayton-John, the start of a school year is nothing new; she has been with the Escalon Unified School District for more than 30 years. She taught second grade for the first eight years, then moved to the kindergarten level, where she has taught ever since.

“We’re gearing up,” she said, smiling, as she unpacked some new math workbooks.

There’s plenty to get done at the kindergarten level, as the emergence of transitional kindergarten (TK) has made the first official school year of kindergarten even more learning-focused, with reading, writing and arithmetic all on the schedule as opposed to simply learning the ABCs and the 1-2-3’s.

“The best part is when the kids come in,” Brayton-John summarized of welcoming in her kindergarten class. “You see their little smiles; they’re so excited – for the most part – to be here.”

Students are returning today to all four elementary schools in the district, Dent, Collegeville, Farmington and Van Allen, along with El Portal Middle School and the Escalon High School campuses. Gateway Academy, the district’s charter homeschool, also has its first day today.

Principals for the 2016-17 school year include Anna Ellerson for Collegeville and Farmington; Anthony Varni at Dent; newcomer Julio Zambrano at Van Allen; Mark Vos at El Portal, newcomer Eric Simoni at Escalon High School and Jennifer Klopatek-Driscoll, who serves as administrator at Gateway.

District Superintendent Ron Costa said all the new teachers (See photos on Page A4) were welcomed to the district with an official orientation and luncheon on Friday and all staff members are enthusiastic and ready to start a new year.