DELL RAPIDS, S.D. (KELO) — It won’t be long before kids will be back in their classrooms for the new school year.

Kari Hettinger discovered her passion for education as an elementary student at St. Mary Catholic School in Dell Rapids.

While Hettinger has been an educator for over a decade, it will be her first time teaching at the school she grew up in.

“It’s always just been a dream of mine to come back and teach and there was an opening so it was the right timing,” 5th grade teacher Kari Hettinger said.

Now the 5th grade teacher is busy getting her classroom ready for the first day of school on August 10th.

“Making it look welcoming for students and then getting all the curriculum figured out,” Hettinger said.

From sorting music to lesson planning, music teacher Joni Smith is also preparing for the return of students and another year of learning.

“I love seeing kids have that light bulb moment. When they finally learn something or learn how to play an instrument or finally finish a song and their eyes bright up and their big smile, I love seeing those smiles on the faces,” Music teacher Joni Smith said.

St. Mary has signed up 36 new students for the school year.

“There’s nothing better than having this campus full of kids. I enjoy seeing them, I enjoy seeing their pursuits, I enjoy seeing them accomplish great things,” Superintendent Father Shane Stevens said.

“When they finally get here on the first day it makes all the work ahead of time worth it,” Hettinger said.

August 10th is an earlier start than usual for St. Mary Catholic School.

It’s related to the school’s plan for building a new elementary school and remodeling the high school.

Father Stevens says finishing school earlier next spring will allow four strong months for finishing up the projects.