The idea of a teacher coming to your house is cool.

But when an actual teacher shows up in your driveway, it can be unnerving—especially if you’re 5 and this is your first year in elementary school.

On Wednesday, teachers from seven Janesville elementary schools went on before-school home visits with the goal of meeting as many of their students as possible.

Home visits started at Jefferson Elementary School in 2016. The idea is to help reduce first-day anxiety, help kids get to know their teachers and, most important, to connect with families. Harrison Elementary School joined Jefferson in 2017, and the event caught on.

The kids love it. Last year, teachers were greeted with messages written in sidewalk chalk and students waiting in bay windows, said Jessica Grandt-Turke, Harrison principal.

Take Esjay Sirianni, 5. When he saw the van of teachers stop at another house, he put his little lawn chair next to his mom’s in the driveway and sat down to wait.

All summer long, he has been asking if “today was the day I go to Harrison,” said his mother, Stacy Sirianni.

As teachers Jodie Adler and Kim Astin came up the driveway with two other staffers, Esjay smiled, stood up—and then was struck by stage fright.

He stood, looking up at his teachers as they talked, all the while gently pulling on the bottom of his shirt.

They asked him about his school supplies. Yes, he nodded, he had them. What color was his backpack?

“Blue and black,” he said, barely audible.

But by the time they took a photo together, Esjay was starting to relax.

Alder and Astin team teach a combined kindergarten-first grade class, so some students they visited were in their classroom last year.

These children were not shy.

Dominic Pietranton, 6½, hugged his teachers and then recited a litany of his summer activities.

He went to the Edgerton pool. He fell down on the playground because his swim trunks were wet (“Here’s the scab!”). He went to swimming lessons (he’s in level three). Later we learned that he went over the handlebars on his bike and his sister got “bitten” in the eye by a bee.

He promised his teachers—and these are his words—to be a “role model” for the kindergartners in his class.

Each child got a goodie bag, and parents/caregivers got information about back-to-school activities.

Grandt-Turke, the principal, said these pre-school driveway meetings work better than open houses. Many schools now have both.

“At an open house, it’s one teacher to 25 parents,” Grandt-Turke said. “This is one-to-one.”

Stacy Sirianni thought the home visits were a great idea.

Sirianni teaches the toddler class at Rock Prairie Montessori, and in that role she also does home visits.

“You can see how it benefits children,” Sirianni said. “They get to meet the teacher while their caregiver is there.”

That interaction, that familiar face on the first day of school, is reassuring to kids, she said.

Grandt-Turke said the most important part of the home visit is reassuring kids how much they’ll be valued at school.

“They need to know how excited we are to see them and how we can’t wait to just love them up,” Grandt-Turke said. “Somebody once said ‘People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.’”

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