Last First Day

Today is my 44th first day of school. It is also my last. 

I love the awkward energy of the first day of school. Some students show up excited and eager, while others hold back out of shyness or nerves. There are hugs and groans and faces hidden under masks and phones. After summer away from the stress and structure of school, everyone – students and staff – returns to school armed with good intentions and ready to put their best feet forward. 

At the end of this year, I will be leaving Gateway Public Schools, where I have started 23 of my 44 school years. At Gateway, I have been a teacher, an advisor, a principal, a school founder, and an executive director. I have made great friends, and I have met students whose brilliance, integrity, resilience and creativity blow me away. Gateway is my home and my family, and without a doubt it has shaped me as much as I have shaped it.

I have so many emotions today. I am excited for the new year. I am sad to think about my time at Gateway ending. I am inspired by my incredible colleagues and our shared work. I am thrilled to be among students again. I am joyful and hopeful and anxious and grateful. 

My hope is to approach this day and the rest of this school year with the curiosity and awe that I had as a student. What magic will this year hold? What will I learn and how will my world change as a result? What moments will I want to hold on to forever?

Last First Day Project

Over the course of the year, I will be capturing and documenting pictures, memories and thoughts on a regular basis, sort of a cross between a digital scrapbook and a weekly column on learning and leading. I’m excited for my Last First Day project mostly for my own sake, but I hope you’ll enjoy it too. 

This sign is posted all over school. I’m not even gone yet, and I’m already “Old Olken.”

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