Cole Cataldo-Stutzman was zooming from room to room in his Elkhart home the afternoon before he started kindergarten. His usual case of the fidgets escalated when his mother let him put on the new shoes the family had been been saving for the first day of school.
Jasmine Cataldo, Cole’s mom, watched his antics with a small smile on her face.
“See how speedy and full of energy he is?” she said. “It’s because he’s so excited. When I ask him to do something he moves like this,” she added, slumping her shoulders and slouching along in an exaggerated imitation of her son.
Cataldo is mourning the end of what she calls “little person time” for her 5-year-old son, but she knows he’s in good hands at Beardsley Elementary, where her daughter and niece also attend. Cole is one of the hundreds of students who started kindergarten this year at Elkhart Community Schools — the first step in their formal education career.
“This is the year (students) grow the most, between kindergarten and first grade,” Cole’s teacher Ashley Morris said as she met her incoming students at Beardsley the night before school started Thursday, Aug. 14.
Morris, who has been teaching kindergarten for five years, said the best part about this age is the students’ excitement and motivation to learn. Some kindergarten students, like Cole, have attended a preschool program before arriving at kindergarten.
Cole’s year at the Elkhart Youth and Community Center’s Busy Bees program prepared him well for kindergarten, Cataldo said, but he will have to adjust to staying in school until 3:35 p.m. five days a week. Preschool only lasted until 11 a.m.
Cataldo also worries about social situations Cole may find himself in — he’s already been teased for being “too white” when his peers noticed his fair skin and hair.
“I told him, ‘Honey, in school you are always too something,’” she said.
Even with these worries, Cataldo is happy to see Cole’s obvious enjoyment at finally being part of “the big kids crew for real this time, not as a tagalong,” she observed.
This part of kindergarten — the part where Cole will get to interact with other kids, is what he will enjoy most, she thinks.
For the little boy who includes “hanging out with my mom” on the top of his list of hobbies, this transition will be difficult for Jasmine Cataldo — but she’s ready.
“Just like you say goodbye to the bottles, to the baby toys, you say goodbye to little person time,” she said.