Editor's note: This is the second in a series of articles looking at the day-to-day lives of local people in various professions.
SOUTH RANGE - It's 8 a.m. and the sweet smell of maple syrup filters through the hallways at South Range Elementary School.
Waist-high students with colorful backpacks dart in and out of the lunchroom while around the corner, teachers convene in the teachers' lounge. The room is small and cozy, and a half-dozen teachers catch up over cups of coffee. Against the wall, kindergarten teacher Nikki Lishinski talks with her co-workers about class hijinks. Just a few minutes later, she stands next to her door with the rest of the teachers, greeting groggy students as they settled into class.
Daily Mining Gazette/Stacey Kukkonen
Kindergarten teacher Nikki Lishinski instructs her class Thursday at South Range Elementary School.
"Good morning," she said, greeting them as they pass by. "I like your hair today."
Half of the students take their own attendance by placing paper cards with their names on them in a pouch.
"I used to teach second grade," Mrs. Lishinski said closing the door behind the last student. "Kindergarten is an entirely different experience."
Her day starts by reminding the students, who are already busy coloring in a cactus, to move the attendance cards if they are present. She gives the more than 20 students their lunch options, which for Thursday was between a ham sandwich or chef salad. After explaining both, she calls out their names, and each student responsibly orders their lunch.
After the first few students, the chatter in the room increases. One student calls out "tuna!" when asked what she wants for lunch, to which Mrs. Lishinski gently reminds her tuna is not an option.
Mrs. Lishinski doesn't skip a beat with the students - deflecting the typical kindergarten student comments about passing gas and using the bathroom - never losing her composure and sense of professionalism. Rather, she falls into daily ritual, turning on "I Like to Move It" by Reel 2 Real which brings all of the students to their feet to push in their chairs, pack away their coloring supplies and find a seat on the carpet.
Following a bell alarm, Principal Kim Harris' voice streams though the classroom while the students intently listen.
"Each of you has something special inside of you," Harris said. "Each of you has something special to give."
After the Pledge of Allegiance, it's time to call another student online who is homeschooled but spends part of the day interacting with the students through the laptop. The students excitedly greet their friend and jump into "News From Home," where they share stories of the goings on at home.
Although it seems the morning has gone off without a hitch, chaos soon ensues, and the students try to out-shout each other while counting from one to 20. But patience is a virtue for Mrs. Lishinski, who has been teaching for seven years now. For an hour, she uses gentle speech and enunciated words to quiet the students back down. As a class, they discuss the weather, count bundles of straws and sing the days of the week together.
"Please don't forget Wednesday," Mrs. Lishinski said with a smile. "We've been forgetting Wednesday in this song."
A few minutes later, it's off to music where the students are greeted by music teacher Emily Raffaeli and dance around the music room in a circle. Music time is a favorite among the students - and Mrs. Lishinski, who heads back to her classroom for one half-hour of preparation time.
"I get two of these a week," she said, settling into her desk, where she begins answering parents' emails and preps the day's lesson plans.
The rest of her day is spent keeping the kids constantly stimulated. She transitions through the day with ease, working with letter recognition and math activities. Occasionally, she helps tie shoes or quickly recovers spare undergarments that fall out of students' backpacks. Besides a few hours of help from Americorps worker Kelsey Makela in the morning, Mrs. Lishinski minds the troop herself.
"They are moving all the time," she said.
For another person, spending the day with two dozen kindergarten students may seem overwhelming, but for Mrs. Lishinski, it's just another day at the office, where she never knows who is going to say what next or what kind of hijinks will ensue.