Knowledge Universe centers and sites prepare children for school, but given the age group they serve, it’s quite common to hear outsiders refer to the centers as “daycare.” ONE editors asked some of the 2014 KU Early Childhood Educator Award winners (amazing teachers all) how they help parents shake that daycare stereotype.
Recognize the importance of early childhood education
“It’s important that families understand the difference early childhood education has on a child entering public school versus a child who hasn’t been exposed to early learning experiences,” said Joy Kuhn, a prekindergarten teacher in Colorado Springs. Creating a comfortable, welcoming classroom helps make learning fun – and that gives children a solid foundation for their academic journey.
Establishing the idea that the center is a school and the classroom is a place for learning is “…vital to creating a positive environment of partnership,” said Mary Annithipie-Bane, a pre-k teacher in Belford, NJ.
Focus on curriculum
“I try to stress the focus that my classroom (and the center) has on curriculum,” said Joy. She explains that the curriculum is designed to meet each child’s developmental needs and ensure children learn the skills they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
“I communicate with my families the skills and development which they can expect their child to gain throughout the school year,” said Mary. “In this way each parent can compare the kindergarten expectations to our prepared lesson plans and see firsthand the quality of education their child will be receiving.”
Julieta Villarey, a school-age teacher in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., includes her students in her lesson plans, asking for their ideas as to how they can explore each curriculum theme. “Kids want to think they’re having fun, but they’re really learning,” she said, explaining her students are often surprised to discover just how much they learned.
Remember: a teacher is not a babysitter
“We aren’t just care providers, but trained and experienced educators,” said Joy. “As educators we have the developmental and academic interests of each child in mind always.”
“Whether it be pre-k or infants, I try to make parents realize we’re not a babysitter,” said Laura Debouchel, a pre-k teacher in Frederick, Md. “I tell my students this is your school and at school we learn.”
And each teacher is there to help students learn. “As a teacher you have to pinpoint their differences,” said Julieta. “They all want to learn. You have to look for clues to their development.”