Even though the years before six are the most critical for children and when they learn the most, many go without quality preschool and as a result they start Kindergarten and then first grade behind and sometimes never catch up.
United Way of Southern Nevada is on a mission to help young children by providing Preschool Curriculum Course (PCC) Training to the teachers who oftentimes enter their classrooms without the critical training to guide their children during the most formative years of their lives.
Dedicating nine months and a total of 120 hours of their time, 32 teachers graduated the PCC Training on June 12, 2013, forever changed by the experience.
“I learned things that I never imagined,” said Rhona Owens-Esparza a PCC student. “For instance, did you know that it takes a child 200 times doing something before they actually learn it or that a child can’t just pick up a pair of scissors and start cutting? There are specific steps.”
Each month the teachers learned something new, exploring math, science, literature, music and movement and active learning. The teachers also learned innovative ways of interacting with the children, teaching strategies and understanding assignments.
“By participating in this course I know the children I teach will be getting the best preschool experience available,” said Rhona. “There is a better way of teaching our children, and I am fortunate enough to have learned it.”
Learning how to listen to children and build their learning activities based on their curiosity may seem natural. But for many of the teachers who receive a minimal amount of instruction, the training was literally life changing.
“Children actively playing together or alone, neatly or messily, quietly or noisily-are busy learning about the world in the ways that children are intended to learn,” said Rhona.
She was motivated and inspired by the training and shared that the teachers at the center had been transformed.
“One was so excited to see the children’s reactions to her activity ideas that she shared with me every week what the children said and did,” said Kim. “The other teacher could not get enough knowledge and ideas and was buying up every book from the training that wasn’t given to us.”
Because of the training, the curriculum at Kids First is now uniform center-wide with a daily routine and curriculum goals. The results: teachers work better as a team because they share the same goals and children come prepared to participate, with clear and consistent goals set out for them.
Rhona put it best when she shared her hopes for her future class of students. “When my children leave me at the end of the year they will be self-confident, socially well-adjusted, creative, independent, self-sufficient, healthy, able to resolve conflicts, intrinsically motivated and industrious,” shared Rhona.