On Sunday, September 12, from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m., the Atwater Elementary School celebrated their 100 year anniversary. Everybody from the community — previous students, teachers and families alike — all came by and celebrated. There was food, a live band, a bouncy house and many speeches and presentations.
“I just think that this event … shows what a great place Atwater is,” said Jennifer Conigliaro, English Language Learner (ELL) teacher. “I cannot believe how many staff members, former staff members, families, students everybody is here. The presentation that they put together that shows the history of the school. And I really don’t think you can find it anywhere. It gives me goose bumps watching it.”
There was both excitement, as well as hope for the future of the school. Kayla Russick, Atwater principal, has high hopes.
“I would love the building to be back to its original state as much as possible,
Russick said. “There’s a beautiful mural I’d like restored.”
Russick is a dedicated member of the Shorewood and Atwater community.
“I love Atwater, [and] I love this community. I grew up in a really small town where everyone was homogenous. I was a teacher for 25 years before becoming principal, and I just love the diversity and quality education and how rich the arts are here,” Russick said. “To me, this is the perfect environment. The teaching and students here are excellent, so just keep pushing that to a higher level for all of us.”
Atwater’s ELL program is also something Russick’s very proud of.
“We start off the school year with a coffee meeting that the parents come to. Our ELL teacher was talking to Chinese families asking them why they ended up at Atwater. They said Atwater is known, that if you want your child to really learn English while living in the U.S., that Atwater is a really good place to go,” Russick said.
Students from all grades also enjoy attending Atwater, for various other reasons as well.
“I like school, and my teacher Kelly. I also like the music in our school plays,” said Ellson Liu, preschooler.
Students from higher graders also agree.
“I like how kind and welcoming all the staff is,” said Kelan Migan, sixth grader, “I just came here last year from Milwaukee, there’s a girl here who introduced me to a lot of nice girls. Shorewood is a very fun place. I wouldn’t make any changes. It’s perfect.”
In consensus with their students, Atwater parents are also appreciative of Atwater’s ELL program and the welcoming community.
“I asked my friends about the school, the elementary for my son,” said Marwal Al-Halawahi, parent, “Most friends told me about Atwater school. It’s nice and good for [an] international kid.”
Graduates of Atwater are also impressed with Atwater’s ELL program, as well as the emphasis on the arts, the academic excellence and the hands-on learning.
“I love that my kids are sitting next to kids from other countries like Taiwan, Israel,” said Lisa Lien, a 1984 graduate from Atwater, and parent, “I love that they put a huge emphasis on the arts — music and art, writing, math and reading, things they really value like the garden [and] field trips.”
George Anton, head custodian, knows Atwater like the back of his hand. He attended the school and graduated in 1969.
“I like everything about the school, the kids, teachers and the parents. I have a lot of good memories here. They’ve added a whole addition since I went here; it’s a lot bigger now,” Anton said.
Many graduates came back for the 100-year anniversary and shared their memories of their time in Shorewood.
“I had a hard time … learning to read in third grade,” Lien said. “My third grade teacher, Mrs. Lightner … just passed away this past spring, … but she knew that I was feeling a little bad, so she made me the star of the group play that was in here. She was an incredible woman. That was a nice memory.”
All the memories and programs at Atwater were shared during the 100th anniversary, as approval from teachers, alumni, students and parents.
Everyone appreciated the event to honor the school. “For a public school, it’s just grand and beautiful,” Lien said.
by Jessi Duncan and Yasmin Mohd Suhailin