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First day brings excitement and jitters for students, teachers

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Kerry Jo Melland helps Kaden Hall with the class assignment.

LIVE OAK, Fla. — The classrooms at Suwannee Primary School were brightly decorated and perfectly arranged for the beginning of the new year. 

Kerry Jo Melland, Heidi Hunter and Georgette Allbritton were among the teachers waiting to greet their new students when the Suwannee County School District began classes Thursday.  

Melland is in her eighth year of teaching first grade. 

“When I was in middle school and high school I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Melland said. “I love working with kids.” 

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Kerry Jo Melland reads to her first grade class.

She debated teaching in elementary school or becoming an agriculture teacher. After volunteering for the elementary school, she knew she found the perfect fit. 

“I feel like they learn the most in first grade,” Melland said. “They really thrive in first grade.”

She admits to feeling nervous the day before school starts. 

“Every night before the first day of school I always get very nervous, because I never know how this group of kids are going to act,” she said.

She said her first two days went smooth.

“This is a great bunch of kids I have this year,” Melland said. “I am real excited about the whole year.”

Melland said she is a very hands-on, active teacher. 

She said she can’t sit still for too long and  knows the students can’t either so they are always moving around. 

First grader Kaden Hall said he is is excited to learn more about writing. 

“I am excited to learn about reading,” added classmate Ellie Ogles. 

She said she likes to make up stories and read about princesses, dragons, fish, mermaids and pirates.

First grader Baylor Ahrens said he wants to learn about animals, especially the cheetah.

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Georgette Allbritton talks to her kindergarten class.

Hunter and Allbritton or the “teaching sisters” as they are known, teach kindergarten together. 

“We are seasoned teachers,” Hunter said.

They both have 30 years of teaching experience. 

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Heidi Hunter teaches her students about counting words in a sentence.

Hunter said she realized she wanted to teach while volunteering in a second grade class while attending college. 

“Being in that classroom and seeing the impact that teacher had on childrens' lives and how they looked at her with admiration and respect, I just said ‘I want to do this,’” Hunter said. “I love talking to them and working with them.”

Allbritton started out as a teacher’s aid and decided to go back to school to become a teacher. 

She added her sister becoming a teacher inspired her. 

“I love little children,” Allbritton said. “I love that connection you make with the children and their families and you see what they can become.”

Allbritton was named the Suwannee County Teacher of the Year in 2016. 

“I am actually teaching one of my former students’ child,” Allbritton said. “It’s like a full circle.”

Hunter and Allbritton team teach their classes. The students swap classes during the day to get help in needed areas. 

“Every teacher has their strengths and weaknesses but I just love getting down to basics, teaching them their letters and sounds, and we are silly and we sing,” Allbritton said. 

Hunter added: “We teach with love and humor.”

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Kerry Jo Melland discusses the class assignment with her students. Pictured left to right, are: Landyn Westrich, Ellie Ogles, Kerry Jo Melland, Kaden Hall and Leighton Starling. 

Jessie R. Box is a reporter for the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press. Her beats include general assignment, government and police. ​

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