By Nila McGinnis
On a chilly Tuesday morning in the crowded halls of Troy Buchanan High School, one of the last things a passerby would expect to see is a group of toddlers running into the building with backpacks a little too big for their small bodies. The bottom of the packs hit their scurrying knees, as they run into what they only know as preschool.
“Many in the community are unaware that we run this program, but it’s a great learning experience for all involved,” commented Robin Engel, Child Development Instructor and TBHS Preschool Coordinator.
Mrs. Engel teaches three levels of Child Development classes at TBHS, and loves seeing the collaboration between teenagers and toddlers. This is her third year at TBHS, and she has run the preschool since the beginning of her time at Troy.
Every week, Engel’s high school students work to plan and facilitate age-appropriate lessons for the more than two dozen 2-5 year olds who attend the TBHS preschool several days a week for about an hour at a time.
Engel watches her students at work in the attached classroom connected to the preschool by a one-way mirror. After observing the students, she then grades them on time management, cooperation, and attitude, among other criteria important for working with young children. TBHS students break into groups and run the preschool almost entirely by themselves, teaching lessons in math, spelling, music, drama, and physical education in ten minute increments.
On the days that preschool is not in session, Engel spends class time reviewing student’s lessons and teaching child development curriculum, which reviews important milestones and education principles for small children.
Evan Rothermich, a sophomore in Engel’s Child Development I class, wants to be an elementary school teacher in the future, and said the course is helping her learn important skills for her future. “I love being around children and teaching them new things,” she commented. “I want to continue to take Child Development 2 and 3, and keep learning about how to teach kids important skills they will need.”
Not only do students enjoy taking the child development sequence of courses, but parents seem to be satisfied with sending their children to the TBHS preschool. At less than $40 for a semester, the curriculum is perfect for stay-at-home parents looking for a small break in their day to accomplish a few tasks or simply have an opportunity to take a much-needed break.
Dawn Boles, whose daughter attends preschool in the morning, said that she trusts the students to work with her daughter on important skills.
“The high school students do a great job with the younger kids. Not only are the students aware of all of the needs of each child, but they take into account all of their individual personalities. It’s fun to watch the older and little kids learning together,” Boles remarked.
The program is funded by tuition paid by parents, occasional grants from area organizations, and by the regular school budget.
“This is a great program, and we receive so much support from the greater school community,’” Engel commented. “Our goal is for students to understand the development of children to then take and apply those foundations to their everyday lives. Whether or not a student continues on to work in early childhood education, almost everyone has to interact with children at sometime in their lives. If they become parents or aunts, see a child at the grocery store, or work as a preschool teacher, these are important skills for students to have for the rest of their lives.”