Back to School – Some GREAT Advice From Teachers!

August 22, 2018

Written By

Mary Friona Celani

Oh what a beautiful summer it’s been! Fun in the sun, splashing in the water, playing in the sand. It’s been wonderful spending time with friends, family and plenty of campfires! Sadly, it’s coming to an end – in fact, for many around the nation, it already has! Now, it’s time to focus on learning!

Of course, it’s not always a smooth transition. I’ve been working on getting my 6-year-old ready for first grade! Emma loves learning, but has enjoyed late nights and sleeping in. She’s kept up on her reading, but I want to give her every advantage as she heads back to school – a new year, new teacher, new friends – all of it. So, we reached out to some teachers and asked for their three best pieces of advice. They’ve come up with some wonderful words of wisdom we wanted to pass along!


Valerie Rotella-Zafuto teaches high school chemistry, STEM and environmental. Here’s what she thinks are some important reminders: 

1. While grades are important, they are not most important. Encourage your teens to reach out to those students who may be struggling, build relationships and be a good friend.

2. Establish an environment that fosters a love for learning. Explore area history, include historical stops on vacations, go to the science museum, engage your student!

3. Beware of social media/cell phone issues! Many teens are getting caught up in sexting and social media bullying. Know the implications! National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has many valuable resources this topic!


Sarah Judah is a special-ed teacher and has taught a mixture of subjects and ages. Here is her best advice:

1. Start getting back into sleep routines now so that it is easier once school starts.

2. Take kids shopping for supplies. It gets them excited and allows them to get what they want. When they are picking things out, they take ownership and will be excited and want to take care of their supplies.

3. Talk to your kids about school. What are they excited about? What are they nervous about? What friends are they excited to see? Talk about their teacher and what they want to learn. Get them excited, but also talk about their fears before the year starts so that when that day is here they feel a little bit better.


Jennifer Hornung-Limer is entering her 23rd year of teaching. She’s taught Pre-K up to 3rd grade!  Here is her best advice: 

1. Set routines for homework, such as time, place, etc.

2. Communication with the teacher is important!

3. Talk with your child about their day. Know who their friends are.


Joanne Basta taught middle school math for 31 years! Here’s what she recommends: 

1. ASAP help your children get back on a school schedule – bedtime, wake up time, eat at child’s lunchtime…

2. Make sure adults talk with the children regarding transportation – who can pick them up, what to do if they want stay after school, procedure if students are dismissed early… put it on index cards with phone numbers and put it in backpack pocket…

3. Tension can run high during transitions – take time to relieve their worries and enjoy helping them through it – everything may not run smoothly- but set the tone/example by keeping the peace. Celebrate milestones – end of first day or week, getting through first event that worried your child…


Alexa Zappia taught 6th grade English. Here’s what she recommends:

1. Bridge the gap between Home and school. When children can see the connection between home and school and feel equally supported in both places, they are more likely to succeed.

2. Communicate and form a positive relationship with your child’s teacher. Often what occurs at home (both positive and negative) can have an affect on their child’s performance in school. Keep the teacher in the loop and allow for open means of communication.

3. Stay open-minded. Especially in middle school years, children are learning how to find their true identities. This can be a tough transition for both the child and the parent. Support them through their highs and their lows. With their friends group possibly changing, their physical and mental bodies changing, and all in between, keep an open-mind. Unconditionally love and support your children with this open mind. That is what they truly need during these fundamental years.


Tracie Zappia was a high school French teacher.  Here is her advice particular to high schoolers… 

1. Allow their child to advocate for themselves in high school.

2. Parents should support their teachers no matter what especially in front of their children even if they don’t think what the teacher did is correct. It’s all about showing your children to respect elders.

3. Teach your kids to be kind. That is what is most important aside from academics


Some great advice from some great teachers! I think teaching our kids to love learning – yes that is possible – is really a key at a young age. It shouldn’t be a chore to learn something amazing! And yes, I do think good grades are important – but teaching your child to be a kind, compassionate, good citizen is just as important. Teach them to have empathy. Talk to them about bullying. Explain how much kindness matters – tell them to sit with a child who may seem lonely.

Sorry to see summer come to an end, but hopefully, it will be an amazing year for all of our kids and teachers!!



About Me

Welcome to Totally Buffalo! My name is Mary Friona-Celani and I am the creator of this site! After spending 20 years in the Buffalo media, I moved on to focus on my beautiful family. Now, the time has come for a new project. I was ready for something new. Something mine.
I am born and raised in WNY and my pride runs deep. My husband, Scott and I are very happy to be raising our four daughters here.






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