Evans High School teacher Gail Sims would like to introduce you to Lindsey Carver, a senior in the school's early childhood education program.
Sims would especially like to introduce Carver to critics of the program, which was nearly placed in the curriculum guillotine last year when the Columbia County Vocational Advisory Board examined the county's technical education courses.
But let's keep the focus on Lindsey.
When she signed up for the class, Lindsey had a pretty good idea that her career would involve teaching in general and young children in particular. Next year, she will attend Georgia State University and major in early childhood education, a decision she said the high school's program greatly influenced.
"I know I'll be better prepared for the energy level that you have to keep up the whole time you're with children of this age," Lindsey said. "I'm glad I had this experience in a classroom setting with a teacher before I jump right into this in college. I think the longer you have experience the better you'll be."
Approximately 100 Evans High students from all grades take the two-hour class, which is divided into two blocks for first year and second year students. Parents in the community pay a monthly fee for the preschool service and more than a dozen three- and four-year-olds attend each session, Monday through Thursday. Sims said the first three weeks of the school year are dedicated to training and researching teaching strategies. Every Friday for the rest of the year, students concentrate on organizing lesson plans and supplies, while the rest of the year is a blur of flannel board narratives, books, zoo animals, numbers, letters and paste.
"But they have to introduce the lesson in some kind of tangible way," Sims said of the student-run activities. "The student can't just get up there and talk to them, they've got to have lots of visuals. They have to have a lot of variety, they can't just read a book every day."
It's the implications that this is just a day-care program that bother 19-year teaching veteran Sims and her early childhood education colleague Martha McGough. Both stress that students learn valuable skills related to organization, teamwork, positive reinforcement and conflict resolution that would be beneficial in any occupational environment.
"We're promoting education," McGough said. "Sometimes they think we are promoting babysitting, but we are not. This is a learning situation and these students have to assume the responsibilities of being teachers."
Recently Sims and McGough took eight of those students to Future Teachers Day, sponsored by Augusta State University's education department. High school students mingled with Augusta State education majors and sat in on some of their classes. Sims hopes that such interactive opportunities - along with her push for an intro-to-teaching curriculum similar to one employed by some Richmond County schools and possibly a co-operative program with Augusta State - will help secure her program's spot in the educational sandbox.
The early childhood program recently held a banquet for its latest class of graduating pre-schoolers, complete with singing three- and four-year-olds. Sims hopes that with more students like Lindsey, the early childhood education program will live to sing more songs.
"We know our statistics are not high as far as going to college, but we're trying to turn that around," Sims said. "I want to stress that we're trying to turn that around and build into the higher paying jobs related to early childhood education. ... I just know what we're doing is important."
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