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Back-to-school excitement is upon us

Yes, its that time of year again. Yes, its that time of year again.

A lot has changed through the decades, but the excitement surrounding a back-to-school season remains.

I remember my own feelings of anticipation as summertime concluded and the first day of school was in sight, questions swirling in my young mind. Who will be my teacher? Will my friends be in my classes? Will someone have the same backpack as me? Do I have all the supplies I need? 

Reflecting upon the past several months, it’s been a slow and easy summer in our household. There have been years where summertime was packed with vacations and adventuring in faraway places, but this year was different. Aside from a few camps and a few days at the lake, we’ve mostly taken it easy and enjoyed activities in our own region. From tubing and hiking to waterfall chasing and horseback riding, among other things, it’s been a fun and playful summer, despite the lack of travel. 

We are lucky to live in a region packed with not only outdoor adventure options but also delicious foods, great music and festivals galore. We don’t take it for granted that we can drive a few miles to Lake Junaluska and spend the day paddle boarding and playing pickleball or galavant over to Canton and put our tubes in the Pigeon for a relaxing couple of hours on the water or venture a few miles outside Maggie Valley and splash in Soco Falls. Few other counties offer such natural luxuries. 

With the dog days of summer wrapping up, the back-to-school season is in full swing and we’re busy attending parent meetings, orientations, scrimmages and all the other events and activities that precede the kickoff to a new year. 

My mom was a school librarian and my dad was a teacher, so during the back-to-school seasons of my childhood our home was abuzz with energized preparation and a familial shift from relaxing summertime mode to hectic school-year mode. My mom, sister and I would venture to Roses and elbow our way through the aisles to find a new backpack and a colorful Trapper Keeper. We would then visit the Asheville Mall to select our first-day outfits. Now, I’m helping my kids check items off supply lists, get haircuts, pick out shoes and find a cute shirt that’s worthy of that all-important day. 

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As a child of educators and a former teacher myself, teachers are always on my mind this time of year. From social media posts and chatting with former colleagues, teachers are fully immersed in preparing classrooms, attending professional development training and doing the many other things required to welcome a new group of students. It’s no secret today’s education profession is more challenging than ever. It is not an easy career physically, emotionally, politically or financially, yet these folks go back to their classrooms year after year. There can be only one reason for this. They truly love teaching and inspiring kids.  

Educators impact our students in profound ways, far beyond maps and equations and dissecting sentences. Future astronauts, Olympians, composers, neurosurgeons and world-renown architects are sitting in classrooms learning from teachers, attending sports practices after school and marching with the band. 

When I think of the profound effects my boys’ teachers and coaches have had on them, I get emotional. Teachers are a significant component of every child’s village, and I hope they are valued by all as they should be. I look back on my own school experiences and am flooded with positive memories of my favorite teachers and coaches. 

Time is one of life’s most valuable treasures. Summer vacation offers our children and teens time to try new things, see novel places and figure out who they are as people. This summer they planted seeds in their life that will sprout into parts of their personality and abilities. I hope the young people in your lives have had a wonderful break from school. As the buses start rolling and the bells start ringing, let’s collectively be with all of the students as they embark on new beginnings. Additionally, let’s be sure to appreciate all the incredible teachers who, day in and day out, inspire our children. 

Susanna Shetley is a writer, editor and digital media specialist with The Smoky Mountain News, Smoky Mountain Living, and Mountain South Media. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

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