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A Strong Start for my Preschool Students

June 06, 2017

As a pre-K teacher at Bailey Gatzert Elementary, I’m fortunate that I get to spend my days with our youngest learners. They may be tiny, but they are full of wonder and teach me something every day.

I’ve been a pre-K teacher for nearly 20 years and one thing I’ve discovered is that it’s not just about managing a classroom of energetic and active preschoolers, it’s about using every opportunity to maximize learning, whether it be during circle time, or out on the swings. Each student arrives with different experiences, interests, knowledge. This pushes me to remain present, to pay attention to the details—big and small—so I can be responsive to each of their individual needs.  

Bailey Gatzert, in partnership with Seattle Public Schools and the City of Seattle offers free, full-day pre-kindergarten in Seattle’s Central District, serving a predominantly low-income and immigrant community. And what I love about Bailey Gatzert, is that we understand that students do best when they have support all around them. We work to foster positive relationships with each other—as students, colleagues, and community members—and also between the student and their individual learning. This support comes in many forms, like by providing a math specialist or a counselor who can share language and cultural experiences with our students and families.

An important benefit of pre-K to students is that students build foundational skills that will support the rest of their learning journey. And when pre-K programs are integrated into elementary schools, like at Bailey Gatzert, there are many opportunities to build those skills. Simple experiences such as working with some of the older kids through a reading program, getting to know school staff, and learning to follow protocol to get lunch in the cafeteria all support a smooth transition to Kindergarten. This solid foundation allows their future teachers to focus on instruction to propel them forward and continue to foster their love of learning.

I often say that as humans, learning is what we do, it's as natural as breathing. This belief fuels my practice. I work to create an environment where students can explore and self-direct their learning. I also weave some repetition and rituals into our day to help students grasp complex concepts, like reading a book multiple times to support literacy development. I create opportunities for students to share in front of their peers and practice leadership skills. And while not every student is excited to present in front of the classroom, that’s okay, all of my students blow me away with their gumption. It energizes me to watch their passions and interests come to life.

Years of research proves what I’ve seen in classrooms and schools over 20 years. High-quality pre-K benefits all children and pre-K is especially transformational for students like mine—students of color and low-income children. With high-quality pre-K, we can reduce and even eliminate opportunity gaps. That’s exciting. And that’s why I do this work.

I love getting to spend my days with our energetic and inspiring preschoolers. See more about why—and how Bailey Gatzert is helping students get off to a strong start in school—in this short video.

 
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