Principal Tony Kalament, Assistant Principal Natasha Saaveda, and their staff were one of many schools welcoming students back to school last Wednesday. While the car line appeared like its normal traffic shuffle, past the gates you could hear the music cranked up, teachers with pom poms, and the administration greeting every person who walked onto their campus. Michelle Barnes of Hernando’s Parent Academy made a point to acknowledge all the male figures who were walking their kids to school. “How exciting to see all these dads here!” Mrs. Barnes exclaimed while giving the dads high fives as they walked by.
As students and their parents came in, smiles flashed all over the place – leaving some pleasantly stunned by the unexpected jam session. Students who were timid or lost were guided by the kind safety patrols who helped them to their individual classrooms. Pine Grove’s mission was to make sure every student who walked in felt welcomed and at ease, such as fellow student Ryan Harrison, who seemed a little nervous as he walked onto the campus. He only made it a few feet before he was lovingly greeted by staff.
Pine Grove Elementary is one of three schools that offer Hernando County’s only Cambridge International School program (grades 3-5), alongside West Hernando Middle School and Central High School. The three schools, all located down Ken Austin Parkway, have earned them the nickname “The Parkway Pack.” The Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) Diploma is an international curriculum administered by the University of Cambridge in England and is accepted in more than 160 countries.
Teacher vacancies at Pine Grove, like many other schools in the county, have been getting filled by teachers participating in the TPG Cultural Exchange, a U.S. Department of State-designated program that recruits teachers around the world. TPG teachers can stay anywhere from three to five years and teach subjects in critical areas, such as reading and math. Hernando County is the first school district in Florida to participate in the program which started back in 2019.
Foreign or local, all of the teachers had one goal in mind – to start the year on a positive note. The first moments of school can set the tone for the entire day, the entire week, and the entire year. If Pine Grove’s mission was to set the right tone for the year, then mission completed.