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home : news : north central illinois   December 17, 2014

3/16/2014 6:39:00 AM
High school students run preschool

Tiny Tiger Rockne Berlinski passes around a flower after smelling, touching and feeling its texture. The preschoolers learned about the 5 senses through various hands-on experiences led by the PHS student teachers. NT photo/Kim Shute
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Tiny Tiger Rockne Berlinski passes around a flower after smelling, touching and feeling its texture. The preschoolers learned about the 5 senses through various hands-on experiences led by the PHS student teachers.
NT photo/Kim Shute
Kim Shute

PRINCETON — Princeton High School students planning a career in early childhood education have the opportunity not only to learn about their intended profession, but to put those skills into practice by running a preschool.

Every November through May, PHS juniors and seniors enrolled in the Child Care Occupations class run the Tiny Tigers program, a learning lab where they study, plan and teach early childhood activities to children ages 3 to 5. PHS Family Consumer Science teacher Emily Happ, who oversees the program, said typically students interested in childcare, nursing or elementary education careers are drawn to the class.

“About 75 percent want to be teachers.” she said.

Senior Emma Reidner is one of them. “I want to go into elementary education, so I thought it would be a good trial run.”

Fellow senior Brittany Hayes agreed. “It gives you a really good idea of what teachers really go through and what you’re going to teach and what you’ll use.”

The Child Care Occupations class, an Illinois Valley Community College dual-credit class, gives high school students a firsthand look at the realities of their future careers. They plan lessons according to weekly themes and in conjunction with Illinois state education standards. In addition they design all visual aides for the classrooms such as bulletin boards and posters. The student-teachers also observe and sometimes participate in lesson planning and teaching in classrooms throughout the Princeton Elementary School district.

“(Going to off-site), I like to see the difference between the ages of the kids,” Princeton junior Emma Mosier said. “It’s amazing how fast they change.”

Reidner agreed, saying the visits to other Princeton grade school classrooms were some of her favorite parts of the program. “In off-campus class, it’s exciting to see some of the kids from the past year and see where they are in their education; but since it’s my last year in the class, I’m sad to see them go.”

Happ said the student-teachers get a well-rounded view of elementary education by rotating planning and prep days with teaching days. Preschoolers at Tiny Tigers learn science, math, art and other activities. Although the majority of students in the class are preparing for a career in education, not all are headed in that direction.

“I just like kids,” said senior Madison Russelburg. “I thought it would be fun to hang out with kids and teach them.”

Senior Olivia Joehl added: “I can see myself doing Miss Happ’s job. Teaching the little kids but also having a more mature group.”

PHS principal Andy Berlinski, whose son attends Tiny Tigers, has nothing but praise for the program.

“They do an outstanding job,” Berlinski said. “”My son comes home every day having learned something new and he enjoys himself. All the students being in charge of the lesson planning and everything — it’s a phenomenal program.”

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