It’s been said that everything you need to know you learn in Kindergarten. If that’s so, cutting a “cookie” out of construction paper might help Curtis Horras later in life when he pursues a career as a heart surgeon.

Horras was among 17 students in Mrs. Mortensen’s Kindergarten class at Betsy Ross Elementary, on the first day of school. And there was great anticipation that morning, Aug. 23, as students lined up on the playground, surrounded by throngs of parents and relatives.

Mrs. Mortensen, and her teaching aide, Mrs. Weiler, led the new students into a classroom bursting with color. The veteran teacher used her gentle manner to exercise a quiet authority over her young pupils. After attendance was taken and a wide variety of names were pronounced correctly, she summoned the students to a multi-colored carpet, where the class will “do a whole lot of learning,” throughout the year.

Each student was given a nametag, encouraged to become a “smart cookie” and commended for being a “great listener.” The Kindergartners were uniformly quiet, attentive and obedient, on their first day. 

In a timeless tradition, they recited the ABCs, singsong style. Mrs. Mortensen continued the singing with a medley, “This is the way we shake a hand, shake a hand, shake a hand, so early in the morning.” She then asked the students what they did to get ready for school. For most, it was what their parents did to prep them for the big first day.

The Kindergartners glowingly described all their new supplies: backpacks, crayons, glue sticks, and scissors, to name just a few things.

Mrs. Mortensen then read a story to the children: She told them of a person conveniently named Bindergarten, who, like them, was attending Kindergarten.

After finishing the story, Mrs. Mortensen told the class, “Smart cookies are children who are ready to learn.” Then, with a smile, she asked them about their favorite cookies – chocolate chip being the most popular.

Later on, Mrs. Weiler passed out brown construction paper and the kids made an art project with glittered sprinkles and chips, and glue. The students will be doing exercises like this throughout the year, Mrs. Mortensen told parents after class.

Before being dismissed from their abbreviated first day, Mrs. Mortensen tells the class they have, “something very special to take home today.” Each is given a real chocolate chip cookie in a plastic bag. It was later reported that a future heart surgeon ate his on his way home.


John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.