Anchorage kids still have a couple days of summer vacation, but that’s not the case for students in the Mat-Su Borough.

Students first- through twelfth-grade went back to the back to the classroom on Thursday.

The build-up and anticipation of the first day was like Christmas morning for Swanson Elementary second grade teacher Asdis Derouen.

“What’s important is when they walk in this room they all have a name, they all have a spot, they all have a number. They all have a place where they feel like one family,” she said, walking around her brightly decorated classroom.

Mrs. Derouen was up at 4:30 a.m., excited to share the back-to-school experience with her 24 students.

“When they all come in, you’re finally a family and you get to show them that,” she said. “You get to spend the next 185 days showing them you really do care and what they learn to love in life matters to you.”

Parents started dropping off their kids around 9 a.m. The students quickly went to work on an activity booklet on their desk.

Elsie Payne said she had a great summer fishing and going to a cabin. She’s excited to be in Mrs. Derouen’s class.

“My teacher, I know her because my brother was in her class last year, and my brother would come and get me and I would come up here,” the 7-year-old said.

She and her classmates have all their new school supplies ready to go.

“Some sharpies, eraser, some markers, some notes,” Elsie dug through her desk.

Those will come in handy for art projects, as every week Mrs. Derouen’s class ends with time to be creative.

“What is Friday to us? Sacred Art Day,” she told the class. “Do you think on the second day of school I’m going to do art with you?”

“No…” the kids replied hesitantly.

“Yes, I am,” she laughed, telling the kids they would learn about warm and cool colors on their first day of art.

Connor Casey said that is his favorite subject.

“The details and the backgrounds and mountains and all that stuff,” Connor said.

A new school year is a chance to share her passion for teaching and instill a love of learning in the kids for years to come.

“These are going to be my babies, I’m going to love them for the rest of their days,” she said. “Nineteen years of teaching and I still love it like this.”

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