Preschool at high schoolMar 02, 2021 11:59AM ● By Jet Burnham
Preschoolers go on a safari hunt through the business department at Herriman High School in 2019. (Randall Kammerman/HHS)
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
Do you want to send your child to a preschool that boasts enthusiastic teachers, low teacher to student ratios and enriching learning activities? Then send your child to high school.
Every high school in Jordan District houses a community preschool as part of their Early Childhood Development program. At Mini Sentinels Preschool at Mountain Ridge High School and Mini Mustangs Preschool at Herriman High School, high school students, with support from school faculty, plan and teach the daily learning activities that prepare kids ages 4 and 5 for kindergarten.
“We are extremely lucky to have these creative students who have new ideas for activities and that want to be there,” said Kristi Johnson, director at Mini Mustangs. “The preschool program is an opportunity for our high school students to get hands-on time to actually practice their teaching skills to help students decide if teaching is right for them.” Johnson is a product of the program; as a high school student at Bingham High School, she taught in the Mini Miners preschool program.
Mini Sentinels director Katie Trump said the enthusiastic teenagers make great preschool teachers.
“They have a lot of energy with the kids and they have really cool ideas,” Trump said. “Especially at this point in the year, I've kind of stepped back a little bit and my high schoolers run the preschool. They do a really great job.”
Because of the number of students taking the course, high school-based preschools offer low student to teacher ratios—usually between one teacher to three students to as low as 1:1.
“The kids get a lot of individual attention and [the high schoolers] really get to know the kids,” Trump said.
The preschool programs also have access to all the resources of a high school which allows for unique enrichment activities and mini field trips. At HHS, the on-site police officer is a frequent visitor to the classroom as is Principal Todd Quarnberg, who reads stories to the kids regularly and dresses as Santa for a special Christmas visit. Preschoolers exercise with the school mascot and they listen to the school choir sing. They learn about music from the band and orchestra students and about dancing by joining the dance classes. They take a tour of the cafeteria to sample the cookies and even explore science as they cook with culinary students.
“The whole school loves our Mini Mustangs and is very supportive of it,” Johnson said. “When they say it takes a village to raise a child—I've seen that at Herriman High School because everybody's so supportive of each other's programs. Herriman [high school] is family and we really try and take care of each other.”
At MRHS, students use their talents to entertain the preschoolers with magic shows and ASL-signed carols.
Several of the young faculty members at HHS and MRHS bring their children to the high school-housed preschool and childcare lab. HHS business teacher Randall Kammerman loves the convenience of childcare and preschool for his children in the school building. His kids look forward to theme days, movie Fridays and “dancing like crazy people in the wrestling room and bouncing off the walls.”
“The amount of fun things that they do and get to bring home is way more than I could ever come up with myself,” Kammerman said.
ASL teacher Tawny Bowman recently returned from maternity leave and having the childcare lab just down the hall from her classroom allows her to continue nursing her baby. Her older daughter leaves the childcare lab twice a week to attend Mini Mustangs.
“I love being able to have my children close while also knowing they are being taken good care of and having fun while learning all at the same time,” Bowman said. “The workers do an amazing job and keep me up to date on what's going on with my children and make me feel like leaving them is safe, which is a huge deal, especially as a working mom.”
HHS chemistry teacher Jessi Morton-Langehaug said her daughter, who is now 7, still talks about the high school teachers she had at Mini Mustangs.
“High schoolers have a lot more energy and are usually more creative and less burnt-out than a veteran teacher,” she said. “They create fun activities and there is always a lot of action.”
The preschools are not just for children of school employees; anyone can apply. Registration for the 2021-22 preschool session in all six high schools in Jordan District is now open.
Classes are held for 2 hours and 15 minutes Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday.