During the clap out June 14, the Siersma Elementary students cheer for, pictured front to back, fifth graders Vivian Burke, Damian Russell, Jayden Dallo  and Ta’Shara Harper.

During the clap out June 14, the Siersma Elementary students cheer for, pictured front to back, fifth graders Vivian Burke, Damian Russell, Jayden Dallo and Ta’Shara Harper.

Photo by Deb Jacques

Fifth grade farewell

‘Clap Out’ celebrates students

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published June 23, 2021

 Siersma fifth grader Divine Bell, right, received her report card, and apparently it  was “good,” according to her mother Rometta, left.

Siersma fifth grader Divine Bell, right, received her report card, and apparently it was “good,” according to her mother Rometta, left.

Photo by Deb Jacques


WARREN — During the morning of June 14, the Siersma Elementary School fifth grade students were the center of attention.

It was their time to shine as they collectively walked through the hallways and out the front door for the school’s end-of-year “clap out.”

The clap out gave staff and the other grade levels the opportunity to applaud and offer congratulations as the fifth graders officially said goodbye to their elementary school days.

June 17 marked the last day of school for the Siersma Mustangs, and the fifth graders will continue their education at Beer Middle School this fall. Siersma is part of Warren Consolidated Schools.

The 2020-2021 school year was challenging for families and teachers as they navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic. The WCS students attended school remotely for the first several months.

In February, the district reopened for hybrid learning, although families could continue with the 100% virtual setting if they chose. This year’s fifth grade teachers were Julianna Bassick and Craig Staskowski, and fourth/fifth split teacher Lisa Pastorino.

“This year has been so unusual,” Siersma Principal Coreen Tremmel said. “The hybrid and virtual students were separated. (The clap out) seemed like a good opportunity to bring them together through the school one more time. There’s mixed emotions. You want to see them move on. As they get older, they become more independent, which is what we want. I think middle school is the most awkward time for kids. They want to separate from their parents.”

That’s because at that age they just want to be with their friends. But Tremmel said by high school, kids begin to embrace their parents again. Although their years at Siersma ended, the fifth grade students take with them a backpack full of memories. A small group of fifth graders reflected on their Siersma years with the Warren Weekly.

‘I will miss all the teachers here.’
“It was pretty fun,” Sara Naeem said. “Every single year I was making new friends. When we were in different classes I would still talk to them.”

“This year went by really fast,” Kent Heath said.

“I had all nice teachers,” Landen Wetter said.

“Mine were all nice. Some of them were funny, some of them were just nice and very nice,” Avery Ricketts said. “My first grader teacher Ms. (Andrea) George, every day we came in we got to try to win a prize by counting to 100. Every time someone did complete it, they would get a Hershey’s bar.”

“A Hershey’s kiss or a big one?” Heath asked.

“A big one,” Ricketts told him.

Before returning in February for hybrid, the students had not been inside the school since March 2020. Naturally, there was an adjustment period.

“It was different because you had to wear a mask every day for three hours straight,” Ricketts said.

“It was weird,” Heath said.

Wetter was glad to be back in school after such a long absence.

“In virtual, I got too distracted that it affected my grades,” Wetter said. “In face to face, there’s a teacher in front of you, I don’t get as distracted.”

Through their years at Siersma, some students found their best friends. That was true for Naeem and Azaleigh Beitel, who attended Siersma in kindergarten, left to go to Pearl Lean Elementary and returned to Siersma last year.

“We both have differences, but Sara is my best friend,” Beitel said. “She’s into anime. I like it, but it’s not my thing.”

“We met in class and we amazingly became best friends,” Naeem said.

“Me and Kent are friends too,” Beitel said. As are Naeem and Heath.

“When I moved here in third grade we didn’t really talk to each other,” Heath said of Naeem. But they eventually bonded. “We both realized we liked sushi and we had the same reading group.”

“I think we even had the same math group,” Naeem said. “I was like, ‘Who is this kid?’ At the end of the year, we became friends.”

“I had a lot of best friends,” Wetter said. “I had three I can name off the top of my head: Joshua, Matthew and Anthony. We all played soccer and some other games.”

While academics were important, Heath also participated in the school’s Ecology Club.

“You learn about pollution,” he said.

“We planted a plant, but COVID came and we couldn’t see it,” Naeem said.

Ricketts played soccer every now and then with other sports fans.

“Before the pandemic I did Cub Scouts,” Wetter said. “The meetings, my mom would come with me. It was pretty fun. I went camping with my dad.”

Some good times the students had were the Halloween Trunk ‘n’ Treats, the Valentine’s Day dances, and the Santa Shop at Christmastime.

“I wore a costume and painted my face green,” Naeem remembered when thinking about the Halloween events.

“I was either a clown or a scarecrow,” Heath said.

“At the Santa Shop, I used to get my mom necklaces and I got my dad a glass bottle with a miniature boat,” Wetter said. “My mom used to hang the necklaces in her car.”

Beitel said she will miss Siersma.

“I will miss all the teachers here,” Heath said. “I like this school.”

“I will miss it because of the good memories I have made here,” Ricketts said. “If I go to a different school I may not be able to see these kids again.”

During the clap out, “I got to say hi to my teachers again,” Wetter said.

“I was nervous about it because so many people were cheering,” Ricketts said. “At the end, I started feeling better about it.”

“I really liked it,” Heath said. “The teachers clapped really loudly in my ears. I liked seeing all the kids in grade order.”

For Beitel, it might be the start of something.

“It’s always been my dream to be a writer or an actor,” she said.

“She actually is a very good writer,” Heath interjected.

“Now I know how it feels to have clapping and flash photography all the time,” Beitel said.

“When the photographer was taking photos, you were doing poses,” Ricketts said.

Parents of the fifth graders stood outside the school to greet their children during the clap out. Many took videos and snapped photos. Lisa Olkowski couldn’t hold back the tears.

“My last baby’s leaving,” she said of her son, Jackson, who will start sixth grade in the fall. Olkowski — a lunch mom, Parent Teacher Organization member and parking lot monitor — has been at Siersma for 15 consecutive years. Her oldest children, Nicholas, 17, and Gabriella, 12, were once students there.

“I’m all done now,” she said, while referring to Siersma as a “family.” “What a wonderful staff. I love them dearly.”