Aug. 4—TUPELO — Lawndale Elementary School students returned to the "Greatest School on Earth" Thursday morning as the Tupelo Public School District's 2022-23 school year began.
The school's 400 students arrived to hallways covered in circus-themed decorations, complete with a circus tent ceiling in the center of the school.
Talina Knight, principal of Lawndale Elementary, said relationships will be a major focus of this year — building a positive rapport with students and extending that partnership to families.
"It's been so difficult through the pandemic for teachers and students," Knight said. "And the big thing that makes students feel safe and welcomed at school, so their minds are ready to learn, is relationships."
Two of the school's goals are to promote literacy and arts integration, Knight said, which are proven to increase student achievement.
Part of the reason the school went with the circus theme, inspired by the movie "The Greatest Showman," was the school's stars — its staff.
"The school is not a building; the school is the people," Knight said. "And I truly believe that they are a stellar group, and they're going to do great things with the kids this year."
Kyleigh Bradley, a third grade student at Lawndale, said she was happy to be back at school Thursday.
She's excited about reading this year, her favorite subject, but is most looking forward to recess.
Third grade math teacher Misty McMurry said she plans to focus on fostering community in her classroom this year.
"I believe that's what helps us get through," McMurry said. "Creating a classroom community and teaching how to be a part of society."
Elizabeth Owen, third through fifth grade art teacher at Lawndale, was excited to have students back on campus.
"I've been looking forward to this," Owen said. "Because I miss them as much as they probably miss me. I've been thinking about new things to do with them and teach them."
Owen's role is unique in that she gets to teach and interact with the same students throughout their three years at the school. She enjoys building relationships, catching up with them after summer break and finding out what's going on in their life.
She wants to inspire confidence in her students this year.
"I want them to be proud of what they do and the choices that they make, and know that they're building off of that," Owen said. "If they don't have confidence in themselves, they're not going to take risks and grow."