CENTRAL PARK LUNCH — Pioneer Elementary School fifth grade Teacher Hilary Cullen examines and reads aloud the descriptive labeling on the chip bag to students Russell Mejia and Carlos Resendez during their field trip to the Sunnyside pool on Tuesday, June 11.

SUNNYSIDE — As another elementary school year rambled to an end with a traditional trek to Central Park for a brown bag lunch on June 11, followed by a pool session of water fun with classmates, the rite of campus achievement marked a new chapter for soon to be middle school students.

Hilary Cullen’s Pioneer Elementary School fifth graders enjoyed their easygoing afternoon underneath the protective shade of trees with a cool carton of chocolate milk, while they ate their picnic grub from the aquamarine colored tables.

“With all the state pressures they put on us, the year gets tough. Things get really rough. And, so, at the end of the year, it’s nice to celebrate success,” the teacher, whose been teaching at that grade level two years, explained.

There were 28 kids shining with highly composed laughter in generating an outdoor symphony, which would signify an end to their primary lessons for advancing onward in the next step of academic instruction.

“Moving up to middle school is a big deal for them. So, we try and prepare them the best we can,” Cullen acknowledged, while she enjoyed the final field trip outing with her class.

“I love all my kids, and I’m going to be really sad when they’re gone.”

Seated across the table from their teacher, Carlos Resendez and Russell Mejia snacked on a bag chips as they talked about their summer plans.

“I’m going to be playing my X-Box and ‘Call of Duty’ game,” exclaimed Resendez.

“Not what I want to hear,” the vigilant teacher replied.

For school officials, there’s a sense of urgency when students get to fifth grade. They will not only be academically prepared by the end of the year but possess the necessary life skills to make the transition to middle school less hectic.

“We tell them from the beginning of the year that we’re preparing you for middle school, and they don’t believe us. Until, I think they get there, and they’re like, ‘I wish I would have listened to my teacher. They were right’,” Cullen described.

The 12-year-old, who lives in the countryside, also expressed his hope that good friend Diego Ochoa will hang out with him during the summer.

Resendez intends to beat the heat by going swimming throughout the summer at the Sunnyside pool located at Central Park.

The soon-to-be Harrison Middle School student was asked what he expects sixth grade to be like.

Resendez paused to reflect before he anxiously replied, “It’s going to be hard work!”

Cullen, a 10-year veteran educator, believes keeping kids motivated when things become difficult is one of the biggest challenges teachers face. She communicated perseverance is one of those crucial life skills instilled upon her students.

The teacher conveyed to students the idea that things are going to be hard, and the only way to get better at times is through failure.

She added that’s how one learns and to never give up.

Cullen said that’s not always an easy concept to teach.

“The expectations keep getting higher, but you know, our kids keep rising to the challenge. So, I always say, ‘Yes, it’s difficult! Oh my gosh, I can’t believe fifth graders are doing these things’. But they always seem to be able to do them,” she proudly stated.

Patrick Shelby can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 110 or email PShelby@SunnysideSun.com

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