Willmar teachers, kids get ready for Tuesday's first day of classes

First grade teacher Nicole Tschetter prepares her classroom before the open house Wednesday at Kennedy Elementary School. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — When someone asked if she was ready for the new school year, Roosevelt Elementary School Principal Lori Lockhart threw her arms open wide and said, “Bring it on.”

Most public schools in Minnesota begin classes Tuesday. Willmar will open its doors to more than 600 staff members and more than 4,000 students Tuesday. The schools were already buzzing with activity this week with returning teachers, student registrations and open houses.

“We can hardly wait,” Lockhart said as she walked down a Roosevelt hallway during its open house Wednesday.

Lockhart was surrounded by children and smiling parents who were there to meet teachers and unpack their school supplies. She was excited for the students.

Nearly every building in the district had open houses Wednesday afternoon and evening. The Area Learning Center had a picnic and open house Tuesday.


Lockhart said students will see new carpeting in all the hallways and a new media/technology lab. It will give students a space to work on projects in STEM — science/technology/engineering/math.

“I am always optimistic about the start of a new school year,” Superintendent Jeff Holm said in an email statement. “We have amazing students and staff members, and having the privilege of leading the district is driven home when I see students return to classrooms.”

In Karen Douglass’ Roosevelt fifth-grade classroom, Travis Venenga, 10, was unpacking school supplies with his mom Shelly Venenga and brother Joshua, a sophomore at Willmar Senior High.

Travis said he is looking forward to being back in school and seeing his friends. He is also excited to think about being a role model as the oldest class in the building.

Travis is happy to have Douglass as a teacher again, because he had been in her class when she taught second grade.

“I always enjoy this night,” Douglass said. She likes meeting kids and their families, she said, and seeing former students.

At Willmar Middle School, Mallory Beier learned she will spend her mornings in the school’s science classrooms — in Tyler Steen’s classroom for health and STEM and next door in Joe Kuehn’s science class.

Kuehn was greeting former students, because he just moved to the Middle School after teaching at Roosevelt for seven years.


Mallory was checking out the rooms with her parents Laura and Randy Beier of Willmar.

"It’s a little scary” but pretty exciting, too, to be starting classes at the middle school, Mallory said.

In Kuehn’s room, parents and kids were asked to go to opposite sides of the room to answer questions and write their answers on sticky notes they put on the wall.

Kuehn said it’s something that has been done in the science classrooms since they opened several years ago. He said he plans to compile the answers and use them to inform his teaching in his first year at the middle school.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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