Anthony James, 45, waves through a school bus window to...

Anthony James, 45, waves through a school bus window to his daughter Imani, 4, as she leaves for her first day of school in Amityville.
(Sept. 1, 2010) Credit: Ed Betz

Anthony James watched as the new kindergartners - sporting ribboned pigtails, crooked baseball caps and backpacks half their body size - stepped off their buses Wednesday for the first day of class.

All around him at Northeast Elementary School in Amityville were other parents who had followed behind the buses, - cameras in hand, tears in their eyes, often needing reassurance.

But James, 45, was more excited than concerned. His daughter Imani, 4, was about to step into the classroom of Jill Wood, the same teacher he had 41 years ago.

"She was a nice teacher, always paid a lot of attention to her students," he said. "I had a big crush on her."

Wood, 63, has been teaching in the district for 42 years. She said she remembers James as a sweet little boy. "It's very exciting," she said of teaching Imani. "You come full circle."

Wood said her love of teaching has never waned. Yesterday she awoke at 4:30 a.m., her mind racing.

"You think of all the different things you want to do, you wonder, 'What kind of kids am I going to have this year?' " she said. "It's still exciting for me."

Her 4- and 5-year-old charges were a mix of excitement and hesitation when they arrived, eyes darting around in wonder as they clasped the hands of waiting teachers who led them past nervous parents and into the building.

"Once they get in there, they're fine, but you can always call during the day to check on her," Principal Pauline Collins told one parent who worriedly watched her daughter walk away.

James said he wasn't worried after seeing how excited his daughter was to start school. And he already knew that Imani's teacher would make her feel at ease.

James said he and a friend from that kindergarten class had made a bet years ago about whose kids would end up in Wood's class. His friend won, James said. "He beat me to the punch, but I'm glad she still got in there," he said.

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