The First, First Day

Dubois Elementary School kindergartner Molly Schepers, right, waited for her teacher, Mrs. Kim Miley, to hand out pieces of paper to work on writing journals on the first day of school Aug. 9. Molly attended pre-K last year and is the last of her siblings to start school.

Story by Olivia Ingle 
Photos by Brittney Lohmiller

"Hi, Miss Molly,” Mrs. Kim Miley says as 5-year-old Molly Schepers hurries into her classroom and high-fives the teacher.

Mrs. Miley tells Molly — who has a red and blue Wonder Woman backpack, matching lunchbox and small duffel bag in tow — to find her desk.

She’s officially a kindergartner.

Some of her 23 classmates are already there, others haven’t arrived yet. One girl comes in with her older sister, who is also a student at Dubois Elementary School. A boy walks in holding his parents’ hands, and surprisingly no tears are shed when they say their good-byes. Although that same student did briefly cry later in the morning.

“That’s what I always pray for. No criers.” Mrs. Miley says later in the day. “I think parents have a harder time. They want to stay around, but that just makes it harder on the kids.”

Before starting her first day of school, Molly, her sister, Madelyn, and brother, Marshall, got fresh haircuts Aug. 6.

Molly, who first met Mrs. Miley as a preschooler, sits patiently at her desk, occasionally chatting with other kids in her pod — the 24 desks are arranged in four pods of six — while most of the kids play with blocks and other building toys at their desks. Mrs. Miley bustles around the room, helping her students put their backpacks and other belongings away in their cubbies along the room’s far wall.

Molly is the youngest of five kids to Jeremy and Mary (Marcum) Schepers of Dubois. Her siblings are Mitchell, 16; Morgan, 15; Madelyn, 11; and Marshall, 9.

Mary says it was bittersweet, but she wasn’t too emotional when Molly left for school since she had already attended all-day preschool two days a week last school year.

Molly wasn’t nervous for school either. She was excited after hearing stories from her siblings.

She woke up at 6:30 a.m. on that first day, Aug. 9, and dressed in navy shorts, a pink shirt that said ‘Girl You Can,’ and gray Converse sneakers. By about 6:45 a.m., she was sitting in the kitchen eating an egg sandwich with ketchup. When finished, she donned her backpack and grabbed her lunchbox and the duffel bag, which contained a blanket and pillow for rest time at school.

However, she still needed to do several things to get ready for the day, such as fix her hair (she got a haircut earlier in the week) and brush her teeth.

After every task, she returned to the kitchen and picked up all of her bags again, only to find there was something else to do.

Before heading to school, Mary Schepers of Dubois took a group photo of her five children —Mitchell, 16, from left, Morgan, 15, Madelyn, 11, Marshall, 9, and Molly, 5 — in front of their home. Schepers then took individual photos of each kid.

Eventually, it was time for the annual first-day-of-school photo in the Schepers' yard. All five siblings lined up oldest to youngest, with backpacks on their backs and big cheesy grins.

Since she’d ridden a bus to preschool, Molly wasn’t afraid to hop on bus No. 7 when it stopped in the Schepers’ driveway. It also helped that Madelyn, Marshall and some kids Mary babysits were riding with her, too.

Once at school, Molly already knew where her classroom was because she spent a morning there last May as a preschooler, an opportunity Mrs. Miley says helps ease kids’ anxiety some.

A bulletin board outside Mrs. Miley’s door indicates “The Adventure Begins Here” and arrows with Molly and her classmates’ names on them point to their classroom.

The kindergarten teacher of nine years welcomes each student by name, another thing she says helps with the first-day jitters.

Molly looked through her pencil box filled with new school supplies. Each of the 24 kindergartners in Mrs. Kim Miley’s class received pencils, a box of crayons, a dry erase marker, a glue stick and erasers.

Once all the kindergartners have arrived, Mrs. Miley greets them with a “Good morning boys and girls. Who remembers my name?”

When they all respond, she asks how many of them are hungry and didn’t eat breakfast. Those students line up in a single-file line at the classroom’s door to go eat breakfast in the school’s gymnasium/cafeteria. The remaining girls join the line, followed by the remaining boys. They’ll get to play during breakfast time.

While spending time in a kindergarten classroom, a person quickly learns that a lot of the day is spent focusing on rules and the correct way of doing things.

“Keep walking guys,” Mrs. Miley tells the students as they walk to the gymnasium. “Watch the person in front of you.”

The teacher later advises students getting up from the tables with their breakfast trays to “swing your feet to the side, stand up and then pick up your tray.”

Then there’s a crash course on bathroom etiquette when the kindergartners stop for a bathroom break.

One pump of soap. You can say your ABCs to yourself while your hands are under the water. Also, say “1, 2, 3 is good for me,” when grabbing a paper towel. The same rhyme is also used for etiquette at the water fountain.

Back inside the classroom, it’s storytime and the kids sit around Mrs. Miley’s rocking chair at the front of the room. More rhyming rules follow.

“Sit criss-cross applesauce” is rhyme for sit on your bottom with your legs crossed. Then, you must “take your spoon” (one hand rested inside another) “and put it in your bowl (lap).”

Abel Klem, left, and Molly joked around during lunch. Abel shared some of his crackers while Molly offered Goldfish crackers.

Kindergartner Cooper Smith chuckles at that one.

Mrs. Miley has three books to share with her new kindergartners — “The Night Before Kindergarten” by Natasha Wing, “Clifford Goes to Kindergarten” by Norman Bridwell and “Meet Mrs. Miley” by the teacher herself.

Various things in the stories prompt Mrs. Miley to ask the kindergartners questions. Only once does she have to remind them to pay attention.

“Did anyone dream of pencils, scissors and glue?” she asks them to a resounding chorus of, “No.”

“How many of you had to take a picture this morning for mom and dad?” she asks. Hands shoot up.

“Did anyone have moms and dads that cried this morning?”

“Yes.”

Molly raises her hand. “My mommy cried,” she says.

Mary laughs when told this, because mom didn’t cry. “Last year, all-day preschool gradually eased us into it,” Mary says.

Later in the morning, it’s time for recess and the students learn another rhyme while waiting in line to leave their classroom — “Hand on our hip, finger on our lip.”

“If we’re doing that, we know we’re quiet,” Mrs. Miley says to one of her largest classes to date — eight girls and 16 boys.

The rules didn’t go away while outside on the playground.

“Hand on your hip, finger on your lip,” Mrs. Miley reminded her class of kindergartners as they lined up in the hallway to go outside for recess. Molly, left, and her best friend, Adalyn Heeke, showed each other how to best hold their fingers over their lips while walking quietly.

There’s no walking on the grass. When you go down a slide, your bottom must be on the slide and your feet must go down first. No monkeybars in kindergarten, but in first grade, they’re OK.

“We have to go through the rules,” Mrs. Miley says. “The longer it takes, the less time to play.”

When able to play, Molly enjoys spending time with her best friend, Adalyn Heeke, who’s also in her class. They were best friends in preschool, too. Both enjoy the swings and Molly climbs the rock walls on the jungle gym several times.

When recess is over, the kindergartners race to line up with their class; there are two kindergarten classes. Mrs. Miley does a head count and realizes one of her girls is missing, but she’s quickly spotted heading back into the building at the back of the other kindergarten class’ line.

Once back in the classroom, the kids return to their desks. Adalyn politely raises her hand and when called on, asks, “When are we going to eat?”

“In about 45 minutes,” Mrs. Miley replies. “They’re making chicken sandwiches.”

“Mmmmm,” Adalyn says while looking around at her classmates whose eyes light up at the mention of food.

Then comes another lesson: how to open and close a three-ring binder. It’s successful, as no fingers are pinched in the process.

The kindergartners then color a worksheet for their binders, which are their writing journals.

Molly, center, played on the swings with her friend, Adalyn Heeke, left, and second-grader Aiden Klem during recess.

Molly is quiet while she intently colors a bear on the worksheet. Other students chatter in the background.

The kids then lay out their blankets and sleeping bags around the room before they head to lunch. After lunch, they will have about 20 minutes of rest time.

Adalyn proudly lays out her heart-shaped pillow and sleeping bag before sitting down on it. Meanwhile, near her, Molly carefully lays out her Littlest Pet Shop blanket — which is purple with a monkey, cat and bee on it — and her My Little Pony pillow.

Adalyn watches her. She points to Molly’s blanket and says matter-of-factly, “Molly, that’s cute.”

“Thank you,” Molly replies, continuing to set up her nap area.

The class then heads to lunch. Molly gets to bypass the line since she brought her lunch. She sits down to a German bologna and cheese sandwich, apple slices, Goldfish crackers and a Capri Sun. Those eating the school lunch dig in to a chicken sandwich, pears, baked beans and carrot sticks. The kids help each other open their milk cartons and chat while eating their food. Mrs. Miley and other teachers watch them closely as they eat, squirting ketchup on their sandwiches and helping them with any other needs.

After lunch, it’s noon and time for the kindergartners to rest some. They don’t have to sleep, but they are required to lie down and be quiet for the nearly 20 minutes.

One girl asks if they can take their shoes off and they’re instructed that they can, but only if they know how to tie them when they go to put them back on.

The students look around at each other, almost as if they’re asking whether they should risk it or not.

Mrs. Miley’s assistant, Mrs. Judy Fawks, turns off the classroom’s lights.

Mary greeted Molly with a hug after being dropped off by the bus after school. “I feel old,” Mary later said. “My oldest is going to graduate next year and my youngest is in kindergarten. I can’t believe there’s 13 more years.”

Imagine trying to get 24 kindergartners to be quiet all at once, let alone for 20 minutes straight. While a handful did sleep, including Molly, many had trouble sitting still. “Hey you, you tired?” is heard as whispers echo across the room. Others wiggle around under their blankets. Adalyn moves her feet around in the air the entire time. But, she is quiet.

During that time, Mrs. Miley leaves the room to eat lunch, her first break of the day.

While the break was certainly needed, she admits she isn’t able to truly relax until 4:30 p.m. when she knows all the kids made it home after school.

Following rest time, the afternoon includes a craft, bus dismissal practice and another recess for Mrs. Miley’s kindergartners.

The teacher says her days in the kindergarten classroom are hectic, but rewarding.

“We’ll be a totally different class in a month,” she says of her students’ behavior.

Molly loved her first day of school and every day since.

“It’s going good,” Mary said Wednesday. “She’s very tired. She falls asleep by 5 o’clock and we let her sleep for a little bit before we have to wake her up.”

Molly’s favorite time of the school day is storytime with Mrs. Miley.

It’s going to be a good year for Molly and the rest of the Northeast Dubois Class of 2031.




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com

  • Team Red, White & Blue

    When military veterans return from service, reintegrating into life back home isn’t always an...
  • Rocky Horror

    People flocked to the historic Astra Theatre from afar Oct. 27 to see “The Rocky Horror...
  • Life on the River

    A love for the outdoors runs deep in the Kline family’s blood. If you’re looking for the...
  • Menke Matriarch

    Phyllis Menke is dedicated to her family as well as philanthropy and environmental work in the...
  • Gridiron Glory

    When Jasper thinks fall football, it looks toward Friday nights when the varsity team takes the...
  • Sirens ‘n’ Side Hustles

    Some raise mums and move boulders. Others bring your party ice or teach your children. A...
  • 'Fear Is A Liar'

    Life hasn’t been the same for teens Max and Sophie Birge since the death of their father,...
  • Historyteller: Mary Ann Hayes

    Mary Ann Hayes is fascinated by history. World history, U.S. history, state history. But her...