Students enroll in kindergarten

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A’zaria Durham paused as teacher Darnell Nelms assessed the 5-year-old’s abilities in reading, counting, colors and dexterity.

“Is that the Mona Lisa?” the child asked, pointing to Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous painting on the other side of the classroom.

“Yes it is,” responded Nelms, who was quite impressed with A’zaria’s cultural awareness.

A’zaria was one of 420 kindergärtners who enrolled Thursday at Wilson County Schools.

On her assessment, given to every new enrollee, A’zaria scored well.

Her mother, Deangeles Durham, said she and her daughter had prepared for her entry into kindergarten.

“We’re excited for the school year,” Durham said. “It is scary and emotional, but she is ready. We go over the basic stuff like colors, numbers, ABCs and practice her name.”

The hardest things for her to remember were her name, writing and her address, the mother said.

Nelms said A’zaria is making a great start to her education.

“I would say that her future is exceptionally bright. When they come and they are already ready for that kindergarten experience, then we can build on what’s already there as opposed to having to go back and build those foundational skills,” said Darnell Nelms, an exceptional children’s teacher at Gardners Elementary. “If the child comes and they already know, then we can begin where they already are and continue the process, which makes it a lot easier for them and us, honestly. But it is OK if they don’t know those skills. We still have the ability to go in and help that child progress and move up to where they need to be to catch up to their peers.”

Gardners Elementary School’s principal, Cheryl Baggett, said seeing students like A’zaria tells her that their families have already made an early investment in their child’s education.

“They are working with their child helping them to be prepared, and when each student comes in, we use this information to evaluate where they are,” Baggett said. “It’s just a starting point. Then we from there, we look at where do we take them. Where do we grow them based on their own unique needs? Every child is unique, and every child brings in their own kinds of gifts and talents.”

Baggett said parents working with their children to prepare for school makes a difference.

“It absolutely makes a world of difference. If they start the year off and they need additional support, it doesn’t mean they are not going to be ready for (Advanced Placement) classes when they get to high school,” Baggett said. “That’s our job. We have to identify where each child is, the supports they need and the instruction they need and grow them from there.”

Amber Lynch, public relations director for Wilson County Schools, said families who missed Thursday’s sign-up day can still bring their child by their neighborhood school anytime during school hours, even during the summer, to enroll. The first day of school is Aug. 24.

“They do not have to wait until the first day of school,” Lynch said. “If you would like to call the school ahead of time you can, but no appointment is necessary.”