HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) — When you walk into Amber Chandler’s room at Frontier Middle School, you’ll notice desks are arranged creatively.

There are comfortable chairs at some tables, and even couches for kids to sit on the edges of, while staying socially distanced.

The mixed seating setting is important to the teacher, who back in 2018 won an Educator of the Year award.

“I think teachers are very aware that students are coming to us with a different set of things in the backpack this year and a lot of it is very heavy,” Chandler says. “So, we’re trying to make it as easy as possible.”

The 8th grade E.L.A. teacher has studied social, emotional learning for about 10 years now. And for parents, she suggests normalizing expressing a little fear or nervousness ahead of the first day.

“I always tell students and my own kids, ‘You know what, if you’re doing something brand new, if you’re not a little nervous, you’re not prepared.’ You need to have a little good nerves.”

After a year-and-a-half of remote learning, one of the most important things she believes teachers can do is assign seats.

It’s one less stressor on students of any age when they walk into a classroom.

“We want them focusing on their education, not, ‘Where do I sit? Is it ok if I sit there?’ We want them to feel comfortable in all the spaces.”

You’ll notice her lights are dimmed by these covers too. That’s in an effort to calm nerves as well.

And Chandler will stay away from technology for the first few weeks. She’ll ease her students into the first few weeks with easier material than normal and do a hands-on project.

“I just bought glue and scissors. I haven’t had glue and scissors in my 8th grade classroom in probably a decade. I’m very into technology, but I think they need a break and a time to be kids a little bit as they get excited for the beginning of school.”

Frontier Middle School also has an advisory period called “nest” during their school day. Chandler says students come together in groups with one or two teachers to build community, talk about emotional concerns or just share successes they’ve had.

Ready 4 School

Kelsey Anderson is an award-winning anchor who came back home to Buffalo in 2018. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.