Preschool: the Perfect Prep for Future Teachers
March 31, 2017
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Situated in the main building is a vibrantly decorated room filled with art supplies, groups of small desks and educational posters illustrating types of transportation and the letters of the alphabet. Between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., this already colorful room becomes even more vivid as three, four and five year olds arrive, eager to start their daily lessons. This is the Early Learning Center, a laboratory preschool for kids that helps prepare them for kindergarten. Not only does this center teach preschoolers, it allows high school students to have hands-on education experience, preparing them for their future careers.
“In the education program, we get to view how a classroom functions,” senior Julie Brashear said. “This can help us form early opinions of what we can do to help our future students learn.”
Former Plano Independent School District (PISD) elementary school teacher Sarah Head serves as the current director and lead teacher. She teaches both the young preschoolers and the high school students simultaneously during two hour blocks in the morning and afternoon.
“I have to plan for the 3 year olds and the high school students,” Head said. “I create lesson plans for the preschool students and then model ways to teach the lessons. It requires flexibility to meet the needs of two different age groups.”
The activities taught are art, literacy and Science, Math, Engineering, Technology (STEM) topics, which are beneficial to a child’s learning process.
“Each week they [the high school students] are responsible for a learning center,” Head said. “For example, this week, the children were learning about transportation. Our high school students built race car ramps, painted hot air balloons and created model airplanes with the children.”
The high school students, however, may learn more from inside the lively walls than anyone else. The skills that can be garnered from hands-on teaching are invaluable to their future success as educators.
“We give the students hands-on learning,” Head said. “We show them how to write a lesson plan, how to get their materials ready and how to implement the lessons with the kids. This makes it easier when they get to college in their education classes.”
The students spend one nine-week grading period working in the preschool with the kids, then the other three grading periods in local PISD elementary schools. The activities the high school students do with the children revolve around thematic units.
“You get to rewrite the lesson plans in your own way,” junior Brooke Rabe said. “Then there is playtime for a while, then circle time, then you go into small groups led by the student teachers.”
Occasionally, high school students get to incorporate their own interests into the classroom. This flexible lesson plan allows the students to be innovative and for the kids to benefit from different methods of teaching.
“My current field site is a music class at Mitchell, and I can demonstrate different musical concepts by playing my viola,” Brashear said. “What I’ve really gotten out of this course is that you can always incorporate things you love into teaching.”
This Education and Training course, a Career and Technical Education class (CTE), is one of only several programs in Texas that offers firsthand experience for high school students, making it an important, yet often overlooked feature of the Plano West community.
“We don’t have enough word of mouth,” Head said. “The program is open for juniors and seniors and it’s available for anyone who wants to work with children. There are no prerequisites to join; it’s very easy to get into.”
The Education and Training class is looking for students who are interested in becoming teachers, pediatricians or going into the education field in some manner.
“We’re looking for responsible students who are highly motivated,” Head said. “If you are a student who enjoys working with children then you would love this class.”
This program and the valuable experience that can come from teaching the next generation of young leaders is paramount. The presence of this education and training program is another important step toward career-based education in Plano where students can get work experience and meet people in the field.
“You can gain so much from these experiences,” Brashear said. “You develop patience, communication skills and the unique opportunity to work with different kinds of students.”