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The impact of preschool

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By Barbara Marek

Barbara Marek

Barbara Marek

I have been a teacher for 27 years –  most of those in kindergarten at El Verano Elementary School. I simply love my job, and I love it even more since we have the benefit of our El Verano preschool.

When I was listening to the radio this week, I heard this quote from Steve Wozniak regarding his business success. He said, “When some people look at adversity, I look at opportunity.” That is exactly what the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation’s recent donations have enabled. They are bringing the opportunity of a brighter future to our youngest learners.

I have seen so many changes in the kindergarten curriculum over the time I have been teaching. When I was first hired years ago, kindergarten was a half day, focusing on social skills, art, music, movement, rhythms and play. Louann Carlomagno, our district superintendent, shared that one of her fondest memories of kindergarten was being the “wake-up fairy.” With a somewhat magical wand, she tapped classmates on the head, indicating that rest time was over. Now, kindergarten is a full day, with the emphasis on language arts, math, science, social studies and, yes, we still squeeze in that music, movement, rhythm, art and play, but no naps! Our kindergarten classroom reflects the same curriculum that first graders had when my own children attended El Verano.

With this stepped up base of standards, we’ve become enormously grateful to have so many of our students get a jump start through our preschool. This year, I have nine students in my class who are El Verano preschool graduates. What a marvelous privilege it is to have these nine students. In so many academic and social ways they are ready to embrace this highly academic kindergarten curriculum.

Research shows that what happens to children before the age of 5 shapes their cognitive, social and emotional building blocks for later development. With that in mind, our preschool director, Tara Stephens, meets with our kindergarten team regularly to share objectives and teaching strategies. She then presents these to her teaching staff, students and parents.

Needless to say, we’ve seen a great buy-in from parents and readiness from children as they review readiness skills in preschool and start kindergarten already proficient in so many initial standards.

El Verano preschool parents have become such an asset to their children’s learning and our school in general. Recently, at conference week, I saw first-hand how involved they have become. All of them plan to either help in the classroom with our upcoming math game centers or with prepping materials from home.

All of them were also more than eager to help me with this talk.

Eveli’s mom spoke about the confidence her daughter acquired through preschool (she’s soaring in kindergarten).

Esmeralda’s mom appreciated the academic foundation her daughter received through the recognition of numbers, letters, shapes, patterns, etc. (She’s passed all current kindergarten benchmarks with proficiency.)

Alexander’s mom talked about how she’s learning to read in English, as she continues to help her son with homework, something she started in preschool last year.

Lekena’s mom talked about how important is was to have preschoolers be exposed to simple materials as art supplies, tons of books and field trips – experiences that will enrich their lives forever. She also loved the support given to a child’s native language while helping develop English language skills for the students and their families.

Our entire kindergarten staff is amazed at how many incoming kinders know how to write their name, recognize letters, numbers, shapes, know the standards of listening, sharing and the beginning concepts of true critical thinking.

The contributions to preschool for all in Sonoma are contributions to our Sonoma community as a whole. As a prior Stanford president stated, “The potential possibilities of any child are the most intriguing and stimulating in all of creation.”