Little bit of chaos

Early childhood education program teaches future educators

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photo by Kailey Calvo

A Husky Pup Preschooler plays with finger paint during class time. Early Childhood Education students are able to interact with and support the Husky Pup students to gain classroom experience with children.

While it may seem strange that a high school campus has a fully student-operated preschool, the early childhood education program is teaching its 180 students how to create and teach lesson plans to 18 preschoolers on Hagerty’s campus. Taught by lead instructor Jenny Burrell and Jennifer Hennessy, the early childhood education program consists of five levels, beginning with learning about what the best way to teach children different lessons is, to being an active teacher within the preschool. Students even sweep and mop the floors, do laundry and clean furniture, fully operating the preschool.

In Early Childhood Education I, students learn what the best practices are for educators and how to properly teach children different skills. Students also receive training for DCF hours, which are required in order to work in childcare in Florida. In level II, students begin to work directly with the children in the preschool. They create lesson plans and do all of the teaching of the children. Education themes like shapes, letters of the alphabet, numbers, and days of the week change weekly, and lesson plans are created around them.

Junior Lily Santomauro guides a preschooler on a STEM activity. Preschoolers rotate throughout different activities daily. (photo by Kailey Calvo)

“I love to create different types of lesson plans to help challenge the children with new learning but also make it fun for them,” said senior Mallory Precord.

According to Hennessy, there are plans to integrate different types of learning into the preschoolers’ curriculum.

“I am really looking forward to adding more STEM-related materials and hands-on science and math lab activities for our preschoolers. Getting them to learn in as many ways as possible is always our goal,” said Hennessy.

Level three works a lot on theorists of education in order to prepare to take a test with Seminole State College and earn college credit if they pass. In level four, students start working on their CDA, Child Development Associate certificate and continue to work on the many steps throughout the entire year.

“Five has been a class that we’ve been able to offer where the student is taking on more of my role. They evaluate the other students and give guidance to the other students. It’s really exciting to watch the students progress like that,” said Burrell. 

“My favorite part about the program is getting to watch the kids grow as the year goes on. At first, they tend to be a bit shy but as the year progresses they open up more and you get to see some of their personalities start to develop.””

— Kaleb Heyliger

There are several certifications that students receive while taking this course, most importantly four certifications ranging from the state-mandated to ServSafe for proper food handling.. While levels three, four, and five all build on the skills taught in the previous levels, each level has its own focus and certification activities that students are able to partake in.

Not only is important curriculum taught to students, but they learn important life skills just by interacting with the children daily. 

“Working with preschoolers has taught me how important patience is. These children are learning about rules and consequences every single day and it is important to remember that. Working with children has also been a light in my life, every time I go to class I know I am going to have a smile on my face when I get to see all the littles,” said senior Ariana Seguinot.

As the preschoolers become more acclimated to the preschool environment, they begin to learn more from their teachers and make friends in their class.

“My favorite part about the program is getting to watch the kids grow as the year goes on. At first, they tend to be a bit shy but as the year progresses they open up more and you get to see some of their personalities start to develop,” said junior Kaleb Heyliger.

As one could imagine, managing and operating a preschool is equally as fun as it is hectic.

“I love the calmer moments during break, when it’s just us and a few other teachers with the kids. It’s definitely much quieter, which is rare during our very hectic preschool days,” junior Ashley Zientara said.

Even though one may think that the early childhood education career pathways program is only for those who want to become teachers, all are welcome in the course, and it teaches valuable skills that occur because of teaching. 

“Early Childhood Education gives skills that are transferable to many different areas. These include coaches, counselors, entrepreneurs, management and healthcare. Our core skills focus on teamwork, leadership, psychology of children, and how to communicate effectively with not only children but provide the necessary skills to communicate with others in the workplace,” said Hennessy.

At the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year, spots will be open to enrolling preschoolers in the program. All children must be at least 3 and potty trained in order to be eligible to apply for a spot at Husky Pups Preschool.

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