This story was originally published on Avon Patch.
When new Assistant Principal Jess Giannini interacted with many parents bringing their children to school for the first time Wednesday for kindergarten orientation, as a new father, he could understand the anxiety of being separated from their children for perhaps the first time.
“Just as the new kindergartener’s parents were leaving their daughters for the first time, I could see it in their eyes,” Giannini said.
In his case, though, his one-month-old Ellie is not quite going to school yet. However, since his wife, Stacy, is a third grade teacher and he taught third and fourth grade at Pine Grove for 10 years, education will soon enough become an important part of her life.
“Maybe she’ll be a teacher some day, unless we’re being taught by robots,” Giannini said.
Giannini lives in West Hartford now, but he grew up in Plainville.
“I love living in West Hartford. It has a little bit of an urban feel, but you still feel like you’re living in the suburbs,” Giannini. “We go out to eat at interesting restaurants.
One of his favorites is , largely due to his Italian heritage.
“I can’t pass up a good bowl of pasta,” he said.
Speaking of dinner, Giannini advises new parents that asking more specific questions about a child’s day will not only inspire a child to tell them more, but it will also “promote dinner time conversation” rather than just asking how their day was. However inquiring about schedules, what kids had to eat for lunch and what projects they are working makes it harder for children to “just give simple answers.”
“If you want kids to tell you about their school day, you have to ask the right questions,” Giannini said.
He first experienced working with children when he was a camp counselor at age 14. Prior to joining the Avon school system, he taught for one year at Maple Street School in Vernon. He graduated from Westfield State University in Westfield, MA with degrees in elementary education and liberal studies. After that, he earned his master’s degree in reading at Central Connecticut State University, followed by a six-year education leadership degree there.
He said that he enjoys being an educator and now an administrator because “establishing that positive experience with parents” and students, as well as teaching students that there’s more to school than “just reading and math.”
“There’s something great about showing somebody something for the first time and making a difference in the lives of young people,” Giannini said.
Pine Grove Elementary School Principal Gail Dahling-Hench said that Giannini is a “strong instructional leader” and that staff and parents are privileged to have him as assistant principal.
“I look forward to many years of working with Jess in our new partnership as administrators,” Dahling-Hench said.
Watching his daughter “as she’s starting to learn things enhances what we do as educators,” he said, as children “take on challenges for the first time.”
His favorite subject to teach was math because of the practicality of it in “real life situations” from counting change to telling time and forming schedules.
“Everyone’s a multitasker these days,” he said.
This is his first year as an administrator at Pine Grove, which gives him a different perspective on the facets of education. For instance, as a teacher, he was always in his classroom when the school buses game, but now he is there to see “the students getting off the bus.”
Giannini said that technology has become a larger part in children’s upbringing. For instance, parent Gilberto Perez said that his daughter, Kristina, who had her first day of kindergarten Wednesday, practices reading and learning her letters on the family’s iPad.
Teachers recognize the increasing role of technology in learning and try to find a way “to continue the tech-savvy ability kids have and to make sure they are using it safely and appropriately,” Giannini said.
Smart board projectors, funded by the Pine Grove Parent Teacher Organization, are now in every Pine Grove classroom for the first time, for instance.
After the one-day postponement of school, Giannini said he was happy school officially opened by Wednesday.
“Everyone was definitely holding their breaths and wondering when the doors were actually going to open,” Giannini said. “Everyone was working around the clock.”