By SEAN ROWLEY
TAHLEQUAH — firstname.lastname@example.org
A visitor to Sequoyah Elementary School will quickly detect an air of enthusiasm from the prekindergarten students who attend classes there.
In its second year as a Tahlequah Public Schools prekindergarten, Sequoyah has nine homerooms with 20 children each and an early special education class with seven students, and hosts a Cherokee Nation Head Start class of 3-year-olds, numbering 17. Staff say they enjoy having a dedicated pre-kindergarten location.
“I love that we are all here together,” said teacher Tiffani Cacy. “The children come to school every day with a joy in their faces, eager to learn and wondering what we will be doing.”
Principal Tanya Jones said prekindergarten has two central aims: getting children familiar with the classroom environment and giving them an educational foundation.
“Socialization is a big part of what we do,” Jones said. “Some of our children have spent little time around other students at home. The curriculum has also become very academic. They are learning about sounds, letters and letter concepts.”
While staff enjoy the children’s enthusiasm for learning, some cite the social facet of prekindergarten education as a challenge.
“They come from so many different backgrounds, but they are only 4,” said teacher Brenda Spears. “The rules at home - good, bad or indifferent - are often different from the rules at school. We need to create an environment where everyone can learn as best they can. You think of how many homes they come from, and how many different ways discipline is handled - or sometimes not handled - when trying to help the children understand what they need to do while in school.”
Jones believes housing prekindergarten at Sequoyah is an excellent introduction to school.
“There are certain to be conversations about whether TPS wants to continue this, but I love having all the little ones in one place,” she said. “We are going to do an ‘apple orchard tour’ - we can set themes throughout the building. We have physical education, music and other programs all geared toward 4-year-olds. I also believe parents like it. There is none of that nervousness about their kids starting school with a lot of older kids in the building.”
Jones, who’s in her first year as Sequoyah principal, said involvement is high among parents.
“On our open house night, we easily had 1,000 in the building,” she said. “About 160 of our students showed up, each with about four or five family members, I’m guessing because it was the child’s first year in school. [The parents] volunteer and make snacks for events.”
Spears said the collaboration among Sequoyah teachers is “amazing” and that the children adapt quickly.
“It is wonderful to see the children’s eyes light up when they do things by themselves,” she said. “You may think you aren’t getting across to them, but then parents will write to say that you are, because parents talk with their children and can see what they are learning.”