Ohio Department of Education Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria stopped by Maryland Elementary School on Sept. 3 as part of his "back to school" tour of central Ohio public schools.

While visiting Maryland's classrooms, DeMaria held informal discussions with Bexley City School District administrators, teachers and students about curriculum, programs designed to benefit students' social-emotional health and the condition of school facilities.

DeMaria said he visits school districts when students return from summer break each year, and he chose Bexley because he had not previously visited.

"I'm amazed at the energy and the vibrancy everywhere I go," DeMaria said. "People are excited to be back in school, whether it's kids forming new friendships or reading new books or meeting new teachers or carrying on the joy of learning. I saw a healthy dose of that here (at Maryland) today."

Guiding DeMaria on the tour were Bexley Superintendent Kimberly Pietsch Miller, chief academic officer Jill Abraham, Maryland principal Susan Drake and board of education member Melissa Lacroix. Maryland fifth-graders Harper Dresbach, Ruth Grarelle and Dylan Rohyans acted as student ambassadors, leading DeMaria to each room he visited and describing their school's programs and facilities.

Miller said she welcomed DeMaria's visit in order to "showcase to our state leaders the work that we're doing on a daily basis in our classrooms, and for Superintendent DeMaria to see not only our students in action, but to see our teachers in action and the way that they focus on higher level thinking, problem solving and creativity and all the things that we're trying to do to help our kids be prepared for what's next for them."

DeMaria said he witnessed "lots of great classrooms doing everything from those early-in-the-year setting of norms to students deeply engaged in writing and reading and academic pursuits, as well as the art room and the music room."

DeMaria said he was particularly impressed to see a room decorated with a nautical theme, matching the school's mascot, the Mallard, where students can go to take a break and have quiet time. He said he also took note of the school's teamwork atmosphere.

"You definitely get a feel for that here among the students and among the staff," he said. "There's really a great culture among staff."