Junior high, middle school set stage for adulthood

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 | 7:27 p.m. CDT; updated 8:30 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 18, 2010

COLUMBIA — Melissa Kern, a seventh-grade math teacher at Gentry Middle School, spent her last day of summer testing the technology in her classroom. Kern uses a microphone as a teaching aid for hearing-impaired students. She is also one of the many teachers in the building with an interactive Smart Board.

"I'm one of the old dogs," Kern said. "The kids are always telling me how to use them."

New students and changes to the curriculum make the beginning of the year exciting, but in her 27th year teaching, Kern said there were few new challenges. She is the one teaching the new tricks.

For Mark Embry, art teacher at West Junior High School, the heat is presenting the biggest challenge. West Junior High School lacks air conditioning, and Embry stayed cool by turning on the ceiling fans and wearing a pair of shorts. Large fans were set up around the school and outside doors had signs requesting they be kept shut to help control the humidity. If need be, the school is prepared to dismiss early on days that are too hot.

Despite the heat, Embry is excited about the opportunities that come with a new school year.

Junior high is a two-year transition period between middle school and high school. Embry said junior high is a big step in students becoming young adults.

"I tell students that they get to start fresh."

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