WESTPORT—This past summer Janna Sirowich reminisced with a former student about the fond memories they shared together in fifth grade at Long Lots Elementary School.

That former student, now 22, is about to begin teaching her first fifth grade class and contacted Sirowich for advice on how to prepare for her class.

“We sat down for an hour and a half and reminisced about fifth grade, way back when, and then talked about what she can do to start building a positive classroom community and to me that was so special,” said Sirowich, who is starting her seventh year as principal of Coleytown Elementary School.

“She’s becoming a teacher now and it was wonderful to see the young woman she’s become — makes me feel a little old, I’ll be honest. But that’s what you want — you want to know that you’re making some sort of impact on the lives of the students in a positive way,” she added.

A Westport educator through and through, Sirowich, after graduating as valedictorian from Boston College with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1999, began her professional career teaching at Long Lots Elementary School, where she taught third, fourth and fifth grade. She took a year off from teaching in 2002 to earn a master’s degree in literacy education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Upon earning the degree, she came back to Long Lots where she stayed until 2007. That year she served as the elementary math and literacy coordinator for the school district before transitioning to assistant

principal and subsequently, principal of CES.

Sirowich said she is looking forward to implementing methods to enhance the learning environment this year.

New kinesthetic learning equipment, made possible by the school’s PTA fundraiser last year, will be added to CES. One such example is the pedal desk, which resembles a spin bike with a desk attached that allows children to pedal while they are working. Other new movement-based equipment includes standing desks and stability balls.

“Kinesthetic is learning by moving and we know, based on a lot of research, that children need to move. It helps us with engagement, it helps us with focus, it helps us with memory—it just helps us have fun. And so we’ve been talking a lot at Coleytown on how to integrate movement into the school day,” Sirowich said. “So the teams have come up with what they think will be developmentally appropriate tools for their grade levels. So what we’re buying for kindergarten looks different than fifth grade and we will be integrating those into the classrooms.”

The newly instituted district-wide guiding principles, Sirowich said, are also a point of emphasis as her administration kicks off the school year. The principles are emotional and social awareness, genuine kindness to others, principled and well-thought-out actions, as well as a constant zeal for learning.

“We’re starting the year here talking about these with everyone. I’m talking about these with my office staff, with my paraprofessionals and with my teachers,” Sirowich said. “With the students we’re talking about what these mean and unpacking them and how do we live by these on a day-to-day basis.”

@chrismmarquette/ cmarquette@bcnnew.com