Dr. Margaret J. Starkes could not be more excited to welcome students back into the classroom.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Class is back in session. Thousands of Pittsburgh students packed their book bags and headed back to school today. Some stood at the bus stop for the first time in more than a year, and one local principal couldn't wait to welcome them all back.
Good evening, and thank you for joining us tonight at 7:30. I'm Meghan Schiller.
Getting kids excited about learning isn't always easy, but when you have a principal that raps like Dr. Margaret Starkes, it's hard not to have fun.
MARGARET STARKES: (RAPPING) Just waking up in the morning, can't believe it's true that your teachers and friends are going to see you. Even if it's just a few, it's overdue. We've been missing your faces, and you know it's true.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: And this is not her first inspiring video. You may remember we shared Dr. Starke's rap for the first day of the school year in September.
She joins me now live tonight over Zoom to talk about all these encouraging messages and the first day back. Dr. Starkes, how did it feel today to see the children again?
MARGARET STARKES: Meghan, it was electric. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me today. I am just so excited. We had a perfect first day back. It was amazing to see the faces of the students and to see how excited they were to see their teachers and their friends.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: I bet you couldn't sleep that well last night.
MARGARET STARKES: Oh no, didn't get a wink of sleep. I never do on the night before the first day.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Right? Yeah, I never did. Can you describe the atmosphere for us in the hallways and in those classrooms?
MARGARET STARKES: The atmosphere was full of life, excitement, hope. Teachers, staff, we were prepared. We were early, ready to receive our students. We had chalked the walk and the path for the students. We had balloons and banners ready to greet them with smiles and encouragement, and it was a perfect day.
In classrooms, you found teachers prepared, well planned, and ready to receive their students. We had done a lot of work to plan for this day. Teachers felt safe and supported, and with their help, we pulled off a first day back that was flawless.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Speaking of those teachers, you're overseeing them as principal. What emotions were the teachers feeling right now? What conversations were you having with them leading up to today?
MARGARET STARKES: Yeah, just being truthful, being in the space where, you know, recognizing that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic that has changed our lives forever but recognizing our calling and our passion for educating children at high levels and wanting to do that in a safe way. And once the teachers realized that we were well planned and that we were following our protocols, they were ready to do the work that they were called to do, to receive students in the classroom.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: We played a little clip of it. For this latest rap music, what was the message that you wanted to get across to the students, and how did you share that message with them?
MARGARET STARKES: So I was inspired by Ice Cube's remix of "It Was a Good Day." This song was initially written by The Isley Brothers back in the '70s, but he remakes the song saying it was a good day. And I asked myself, what will it take us to do to have a good day today on that first day back when we receive students?
We need to be prepared. We need to greet them with smiles and warmth. We need to make sure that they're on time, that they get ample rest, that they have their devices, and that they mask up, and then we'll be sure to have a good day, and we did.
MEGHAN SCHILLER: Well, Dr. Starkes, as always, thank you for joining us tonight, and best of luck to you this first week back and the rest of the year.