The students in Margaret Mitchell’s fifth grade class have big dreams for the future, everything from becoming professional athletes and restaurant owners to teachers and being just plain “famous.” When they graduate as the LHS Class of 2020, their classmate Danny F. sees himself ready for show business, sitting across from Jimmy Fallon making people laugh on late night TV. If that’s still his plan, Mrs. Mitchell will certainly be tuning in.

But before we jump too far ahead and imagine these students’ three-tissue graduation seven years away, on June 21, Danny and his friends, and fifth graders across Livingston, took part in the moving up and awards ceremonies held at every elementary school as these tweens with dreams transition to middle school.

Today, Danny was joking with classmates and leading them in song as they waited for their ceremony to begin in an event held at Mt. Pleasant Middle School.

That’s where all the fifth graders are heading in September. Livingston is among the few school Districts with a stand-alone sixth grade, and as the students come together from six different elementary schools, they will learn how to balance classes and extracurricular activities without the peer pressure of upper classmen, says their soon-to-be Principal and nurturer Deb Ostrowski.

Mrs. Mitchell admits it’s hard to let these fifth graders go. That’s why she began in 2000, her first year teaching, to save the students’ letters addressed to their future selves, where they imagine their life at different milestones.

“As I watched the kids that year I realized how much they were going to change as time went on and how little they would remember about themselves as the sweet young children they were then,” Mrs. Mitchell said. “In fourth and fifth grade kids are very conscious of the rules. They trust their teachers and their parents and they believe that they will always be the same and know exactly how things are going to play out."

Her former students in the LHS Class of 2013 began receiving their letters this past week.  "I was very surprised,” said Christine Ackermann, one of about 430 seniors who will graduate on June 26. “I hadn't remembered writing a letter to myself, but I did recall addressing the envelope to my house.”

Opening that envelope she rediscovered her dreams printed in grammar school scrawl. “I liked seeing how much I changed and it gave me a chance to look at myself as I end this big chapter of my life,” Christine said.

That’s been the reaction for many of the seniors receiving these letters from their fifth grade selves. “I want them to know that when they are older they are going to be 'evolved' into a different person and I want them to have time to think back on how they got to the point they are at now,” Mrs. Mitchell said. “ I especially want them to know that while they have moved on with their lives, there are people (like me and other teachers) who are remembering them as the little children they were; that they have made a favorable impression on us; that they have a special place in our hearts.”

It certainly is a bittersweet time of year. On June 17, Dr. Brad Draeger, the retiring Superintendent of Schools, was presented with a fond farewell. And next week, it will be the parents of eighth graders and Class of 2013 celebrating their students' achievements.

At the Grade 5 ceremonies, principals and teachers presented awards for academic excellence; the students sang; and photos flashed a montage of memories.

There’s still some end-of-year business before pencils are set-aside for summer.

Teachers will be finishing up their grading and posting to STARS, our parent portal. Look for grades for elementary on the last day of school, Wednesday, June 26; and on Friday, June 28 for secondary.

Applications for subscription busing are due June 30. Subscription busing is available on a lottery basis for LPS students who are not eligible for free busing.

And on the last day of school, Grade 5 will have a Clap Out where the entire school lines the hallways and claps as the 5th graders leave the building for the last time as elementary school students.

My niece Julie thanked the parents assembled at Hillside, some holding roses as the occasion marked, with their youngest child’s moving up, the end of their own elementary school years.

“We know you’re all a little sad today,” Julie said.

When she graduates LHS with the Class of 2020 I’ll definitely have three tissues at the ready, but today, I wish I had carried at least one.


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A Day in the Life of an Immigrant at Ellis Island: Third graders learn what it was like to come to America.

Thanks for the Music and Memories: Choirs join in wishing Paul Stefany a happy retirement.

Countdown to Graduation: A Special Delivery. Seniors write all over the white on ‘Color Me Green’ yearbooks.

For Superintendent, A Fond Farewell: At bittersweet retirement reception, friends and colleagues applaud Dr. Brad Draeger's achievements.  

Marilyn Joyce Lehren is the Manager of Communications/Community Outreach for Livingston Public Schools.