Greetings and Salutations, First Grade Peace Families! 
    It's a pleasure to have you in our class.  I am looking forward to working with you as a partner in your child's education.  It truly "takes a village to raise a child".  I am looking forward to working with each family as together, we raise our children to be readers and writers, as well as children of character.  
    Miss Rachel M. Onacko, M.Ed.

                                                                                                                                                                       November 28, 2017    

    Dear Families,

              I look forward to working with you and your child during the coming year.  I have a wonderful group of students and am looking forward to our year together.  It’s going to be a very positive and rewarding year for all of us.  I look forward to partnering with families to help create lifelong readers and learners.

              The following letter will outline many of the procedures and questions families may have about our classroom.  I realize the next few weeks will be a transition for the children since there will be some differences in routines and assignments. I have begun working with the children to establish the routines we will have in our classroom.  Establishing routines will take both time and patience.  I ask for your support in helping with this transition.  The following should help to familiarize families with our first grade routines. 

    Take Home Folder

              Each child will receive a blue folder.  This folder will be sent home daily and will contain any papers which must be signed and Returned to School as well as any papers which may Remain at Home. The folder will also include any homework your child might have for the evening, so please check your child’s folder each afternoon.   

    Academic Planner and Weekly Behavior Chart

    In addition to the blue folder which will go home each night, the PTA has generously provided each first grade student with an Agenda/Academic Planner.  I will require the students to use their agenda to record their nightly homework assignments and weekly list of high frequency words.  In order to foster positive study habits as well as home school communication, I ask that you please initial your child’s planner each evening upon completion of the nightly homework.  All planners will be checked daily. 

    A Weekly Behavior Report will be sent home each day.  Each child will be responsible for color coding in his/her behavior for the day. The behavioral log will be sent home for a parent’s initials.  Behavioral logs and “BEST Begins With Me” incentive charts will be kept in the front plastic pocket of your child’s academic planner.  Behavior Reports will be issued for two weeks.  At the end of that time, Behavioral Reports will be returned to our classroom “Stop and Drop” basket and a new two week log issued. 



    Parent Notes and Student Money

    All notes and money should be handed directly to the teacher upon arrival each morning.  Please send all money to school in a sealed envelope with your child’s first and last name. 

    Homework and “Stop and Drop” Basket

    Homework will be given Monday through Friday.  Homework assignments are a review and practice of our daily lessons and may include a math workbook page, spelling assignment, and the reading of our weekly story, guided reading group book, or our class poems/songs. On Friday, the children will be given a Reader’s Theater, poem or song to practice over the weekend.  Upon their morning arrival, the children will return their homework papers to the “Stop and Drop” basket in our classroom.  Homework Folders will be kept in each child’s desk.  Each student will be assigned a “class number”.  This number will be written by the student in the upper right hand corner of all papers. 

    Family Activity Calendars and Monthly Reading Logs

              The benefits of reading aloud to your child cannot be underestimated!  In addition to parent child bonding, reading aloud helps to build background and vocabulary, develop oral comprehension, and an enjoyment of the written word.  I ask that families read together each evening.  Ten minutes of shared reading time would be appropriate.  Simply put—the more your child reads, the better he/she gets at it.  I am honored as a first grade teacher to work with families to create lifetime readers and learners.  It truly takes a village to raise a child!  I will ask families to keep track of the minutes spent reading at home each week and to record the minutes on your child’s monthly reading log.  The monthly Family Calendar will also offer families opportunities for shared learning.  Calendars and reading logs are due in “Stop and Drop” at the end of each month.  Both will become a part of your child’s portfolio.

              Daily Snack

    Our class will have a short snack at approximately 10:30 each morning.  Students may bring a small healthy, nutritional snack from home.  I ask that families please adhere to the district guidelines for healthy, nutritional snacks.  Fresh fruit, raw vegetables, cheese and crackers, jell-o, pretzels, and animal crackers are healthy snacks for little ones.  I ask that you do not send any candy, party snacks such as potato chips, or sugary items like cookies, cupcakes or juice for snack time.   Students may have bottled water or milk during snack.  I ask that families use a “sports type bottle” for water to prevent spills.   All water bottles will be returned to the children’s lockers after snack.        

    Classroom Birthdays

    If you wish to send in a treat for the children on your child’s special day I will allow your child to pass out a non-edible treat (Dollar Store pencils or small erasers).  I ask that you do not send in snacks, candy, or goody treat bags.  We have 22 children in our first grade classroom. Children will be allowed hand out party invitations to an “at home” party, but I do ask that either all children receive an invitation or for an “all girl party” that all girls get an invitation and for an “all boy party” that all boys receive an invitation to avoid any hurt feelings among the children. 


                Anytime a student is absent I will give him/her the make-up work on the day he/she returns to school.  Please look for the work in your child’s blue folder.   I know how I feel when I am not feeling well, so families will be allowed the rest of the week/weekend to complete missed assignments.  Please allow your child to get the needed rest he/she needs.  Class work and homework can wait a few days.  If you feel you want the daily missed assignments on the day of your child’s absence, please call the office at the start of the school day to request your child’s workAll assignments will be prepared during my lunch and will be ready to be picked up at the end of the day.

              Classroom Discipline Policy and Weekly Behavior Reports

              I feel that a positive classroom environment is very important.  Respect is the key.  My classroom discipline policy is attached at the end of this letter.  I ask that parents post, read, and review our classroom rules with their child.  Please encourage appropriate first grade behaviors and choices throughout the school year. 

    Peace Theme

    The thread that runs through my classroom and helps to promote a positive classroom environment, develop character, and foster a sense of community within the classroom is my yearly theme of peace and the lessons taught by famous peacemakers throughout history.  Peacemaker and Nobel Prize winner Mahatma Gandhi taught that each of us could “Be the change we wish to be in the world.”  “The Peace Class” will learn about Gandhi’s message and those of other important peacemakers.  Our children will learn that as six and seven year olds they can be peacemakers and leaders.  Each child can “be the change they wish to see in the world”.     



    First Grade Peace Class Service Project for The Hazleton Animal Shelter

    Key to developing children with kind and caring hearts and children of character is our first grade class service project.  My first grade classroom adopted the local Hazleton Animal Shelter fourteen years ago as our classroom community service project.  “The Peace Class” will be collecting donations of items all year to help with the care of the shelter animals.  Crafted holiday items will be sold during December Family Fun Night and Santa’s Secret Shop.  Our local animal shelter does not receive any federal funding. The shelter relies totally on the kindness and generosity of the community to help with the feeding and care of the animals.  All monies from the sale of our snowmen cans, reindeer puzzle pins, and reindeer food will be used to purchase much needed food items for the shelter.  A shelter collection box will be placed outside our classroom all year for donations.  I hope our service project will continue to benefit the shelter while sending an important message to our children about caring and service to their community.  Our children can “be the change they wish to see in the world.”    

    Peace Class Web Page

    I also believe strongly in fostering home-school communication and will keep families updated on class happenings as well as our weekly book selection, poems/ditties, themes, and homework on our classroom website.  Homework will be posted daily on our class website.  I encourage families to check the website nightly.  Go to www.hasdk12.org  then click on Drums Elementary and Teachers for Onacko. 

    Afternoon Transportation

    If there are any changes in the way your child will get home after school, please send me a written note noting this change and also contact the school office in the morning.  I would like our daily dismissal time to run as smoothly as possible.  If your child will be “parent pickup” for the year, please send me a note for my records.  As the weather begins to change, I ask that you review your family plan regarding early dismissal.     

    Classroom Donations

    Donations of any of the following items would be greatly appreciated:  tissues, pencils, wooden spring clothespins, quart ziplock bags, Lysol desk wipes, hand sanitizer, napkins, paper towels, and spoons.  Thank you.



    Supplies families will need at home include the following:

              *addition and subtraction flash cards for practicing math facts

    *Fiskar blunt tip scissors, glue sticks, pencils, crayons, black markers

              *two packages of blank 3 X 5 index cards for our weekly o-ring words

              *a hole punch for adding sight words to our o-ring

              I also ask that you send your child to school with a clear backpack to carry work and materials to and from school.  Trapper keepers, binders, and spiral notebooks are not appropriate for the needs of first graders, so I ask that you please refrain from sending them to school with your child.  Also, please do not send rulers, mechanical pencils/pens or small individual pencil sharpeners with your child.  

    I hope this letter has explained many of the procedures you will need to know.  If you have any questions or concerns please contact me at school.  Please leave a message and telephone number and I will return your call.  Due to the busy day I have with the children, all phone calls will be returned after school so please leave a number (home/work) at which you can be reached.  You may also contact me by sending a note with your child.

              If you would like to speak with me about your child you must schedule an appointment for a conference.  I ask that parents please refrain from stopping by the classroom in the morning or at dismissal time.  My focus is on supervising the children upon their arrival and beginning our day together.  In the afternoon, I am preparing the children for dismissal.  Neither time is an appropriate time for a conference.  Also, no parent or child will be allowed in our classroom without the teacher being present.  Thank you for your cooperation.

              I am looking forward to a productive and successful year in first grade.  I hope that together, we can make this academic year the happy and rewarding one that it can and should be.  Thank you for your support and cooperation.  I look forward to working with you this year. 



    Rachel M. Onacko, M.Ed.                                                                                   




    Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA,  B.S.Ed. Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with a concentration in Exceptional Individuals,  December 1986

    Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA, M.Ed. Master of Education in Reading, December 2004

    Certified “Reading Specialist” added to Pennsylvania teaching certificate, Fall 2007         


    Awards and Honors

    Honored by the 2002-2003 Drums Elementary first grade families and children with the “May 2003 WBRE Teacher of the Month Award”

    Recipient of the Hazleton Wal-Mart Store # 2255 “Teacher of the Year Award”, Spring 2003

    Acknowledged at the June 2013 Hazleton Area School Board Meeting for my work in our first grade classroom