School is in session for Washington Elementary's kindergartners

2010-09-07T22:00:00Z 2010-09-08T00:52:48Z School is in session for Washington Elementary's kindergartnersBy SEPP JANNOTTA - Ravalli Republic Ravalli Republic
September 07, 2010 10:00 pm  • 

The Saltzmans didn't have to wake son Derrick to get ready for school Tuesday morning - he woke them.

"He got up and padded on into our room," Dara Saltzman said.

Clothes had been laid out the night before and breakfast was to be eggs with cheese, typically more weekend fare in the Saltzman home.

But this was no ordinary weekday.

Derrick was heading to his first day of kindergarten.

"I asked him how he was feeling about it," Dara Saltzman said. "And he said, ‘Mom, I'm a little bit excited. But I'm a little bit nervous too.' "

On the walk to school through their north Hamilton neighborhood, Derrick's father, Bobby Saltzman, held onto his son's hand and any nervousness was well disguised by the boy's smile.

The kindergarten hallway was a hive of activity - parents with children in tow, teachers and assistants trying to keep students from wandering into random classrooms.

As the Saltzmans stood outside Heidi Kline's classroom waving goodbye, Cryss Pinjuv offered her daughter Matilda encouragement, reminding her that her name was Old German and meant strength in battle.

"Just remember that and you won't be nervous," Pinjuv said softly as she and Matilda paused at the door to Robin Bull's classroom.

Shawna Kientz, principal at kindergarten-and-first-grade-only Washington School, said a few nerves were to be expected.

"Really it's harder for the parents than it is for the kids," Kientz said. "We really need a support group out front for the parents."

Pinjuv credited her 18-month-old baby girl Tallulah (it means leaping waters) for playing the role of the support group.

"I'm doing better than I expected," she said. "But it definitely helps to have a baby here to distract me."


Back in Kline's classroom, Derrick put his coat and Spiderman backpack in their appointed places and waited for his first instructions.

"I want you all to line up behind the red triangle, because we're going to the playground," Kline told her 23 young students.

"Their fist assignment is a toughie," said Jeff Patten, who was taking video of his daughter Indya Paisley-Patten.

There were plenty of non-sequiturs as students lined up for their various activities.

"I have a scrape right here."

"I saw this show on TV about a guy who could run really fast."

"My cat hides under the couch."

Kline's first day of class consisted of leading her students to various parts of the building - lunchroom, playground, bathrooms - and orienting them to aspects of her classroom.

There was the behavior-o-meter, on which students' names would move up or down according to how well they followed directions and how kind they were to their classmates.

The goal was to be at the top of the meter in the green "outstanding" area. A trip there earns a student a golden ticket that gets logged with the principal's office and means future kudos are likely.

There was the gathering carpet - "why do we have to sit on the carpet?" - where many a story will be read. But on this day, students were told about listening and being quiet and the raising of hands for questions.

By the time the mid-morning treat (handfuls of Fruit Loops) rolled around, any lingering nerves seemed to have dissipated.

By the time Derrick Saltzman's mom came to pick him up from his first day of school, he simply beamed.

Someone along the way asked, "What did you do at school?"

"A lot of stuff," he replied.

Reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at


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