Nadia Maraj has two reason to look forward to next Tuesday.
For the Lincoln Elementary Magnet School kindergarten teacher, it's not only the first day students return to class after the summer break.
It's also the recent University of South Florida graduate's first day in her chosen profession.
“I'm nervous and excited,” Maraj said last week as she readied her classroom for the youngsters.
About 30,000 students hit the books Aug. 20 at the 26 schools in East Hillsborough County, area director Jerry Jackson said.
“Everybody is working hard to get ready to welcome the students back,” Jackson said.
Two schools start the year with new principals: Russell Wallace at Bailey Elementary in Dover and Tricia Simonsen at Valrico Elementary. Kayla Forcucci, who was hired in May as Dover Elementary School principal, will be starting her first full year at the helm.
Most teachers returned to work on today. At some schools such as Lincoln, teachers returned to work a few days early because of the school's magnet status and the preparation it takes.
Last week, Denine Douglas, the lead kindergarten teacher at Lincoln, was cutting out letters to place on the bulletin board to help her new students learn the alphabet. Douglas, a 19-year teaching veteran, including 17 years at Lincoln, said she always feels a bit anxious for the first day of class, when she meets her incoming students.
Lincoln third-grade teachers Adrian Brown, Sunni Harski, Sarah Keel, Nicole Rees and Cathy Townsend spent part of last week going over lesson plans.
Harski, a recent USF Lakeland graduate, is in her first year teaching and was happy to put her degree to use.
“It's exciting,” she said.
Lincoln Principal Jennifer West said schools tend to be busy places in the days leading up to the first bell of the year.
“I think the teachers and administrators feel that excitement that always comes with starting something new,” West said. “It's always a lot of fun.”
Simmons Career Center Principal Cleto “Sundy” Chazares offered similar thoughts.
“We're busy,” he said of his 44 teachers who are preparing for 320-350 students.