More than 9,000 Kenai Peninsula students will head back to school today, armed with pencils, book bags and loads of tips from parents and educators.
Last weekend, as they soaked up the final days of summer at area skate parks and the Kenai Peninsula State Fair, some of those students took the time to offer their own advice to their teachers.
Many of the students' words of wisdom were not surprising: Kids want less homework, more recess and time to hang out with friends.
"Lunch is my favorite class, even though it's not really a class," said Ninilchik seventh-grader Lindsay Schnable. "And no homework."
"(I'd say) maybe not give so much homework, but that's never going to happen," agreed Jimmy McKenna, 16, who starts the 11th grade at Skyview High School today. "Some is fine, but not a lot."
Dreading homework isn't keeping students from some excitement over a new school year, though.
Plenty of kids are looking forward to a new year, the opportunity to meet up with old friends and the chance for new experiences.
Jessica Samskar, 13, is heading to middle school in Kenai for the first time.
"I'm happy, it'll be good," she said. "It's not really scary, because I know a lot of people because of U-13 girls (soccer). I'm used to them."
Her friend, Barbara Rorrison, is starting seventh grade at Nikiski Middle-Senior High School.
"I'm just looking forward to seeing my friends," Barbara said.
Once classes begin, students have some definite ideas about what makes a good teacher.
"Encourage kids to do good at school," said Amber Coila, 14, a freshman at Homer High School.
"Do fun stuff," added friend Ky Fields, also a 14-year-old Homer freshman.
"Hands-on stuff," agreed fellow Homer student Sachara Transu.
Many students like 15-year-old Krista Leman of Ninilchik and Kenny and Lance Kitchea also highlighted their excitement about school sports, while youngsters Trevor Speakman, a 7-year-old Soldotna Elementary first-grader, and Kaleidoscope charter school first-grader Isaac Lewis, 6, want art in the classroom.
That advice is especially important in an era of budget strains, when cocurricular activities and the arts often are threatened with cuts. Students can rest easy this year, as sporting and academic activities are slated to continue, even while district officials are still discussing the future of the programs.
In the end, though, the most important thing area educators can remember is that the kids entering school today are smart and looking for education.
Plenty want more instruction in history and math, and a few are wise enough to recognize the importance of school at their young ages.
"To be honest, I think school keeps me away from bad things, like drugs," said Kenai middle-schooler Jessica. "It keeps me away from bad influences outside of school."
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