Early Childhood Education Fall Spotlight
NW Regional’sEarly Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work going on in child care and preschool settings across Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties. Each newsletter, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of our region’s early learning successes.
Autumn is arriving which means a busy back-to-school time for many. Our September Spotlight is on one very busy Clatsop County educator, Adrienne Hunter. Adrienne is the owner/operator and teacher of her OCC Registered Family Preschool Promise program, Simply Kids. Located in Adrienne’s residence in rural Astoria, Oregon, Simply Kids is wonderfully unique. It is the only Star-Rated RF program in Clatsop County and the first RF program to become a Preschool Promise site in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook County. Let’s shine the spotlight on Adrienne and learn about her and her wonderful program….
What led you to your Early Learning career?
I have been working in the early childhood field for 22 years. In 1997, I began by setting up a small, play based group to provide socialization for my son. Those groups made me realize how much I loved working with children so I decided to open my own part time, in-home day care. As my own children aged, I decided it was time to dive back into full time work and Simply Kids Preschool was born.
Tell us about your philosophy of early learning.
I believe children learn best through play-based experiences. My students learn by doing, getting messy and investigating their questions.
I’m passionate about outdoor learning, community partnerships and honeybees. Consequently, I am always seeking opportunities for my students that foster explorations in those areas.
Describe a typical day in your program.
I suppose you could say that our daily preschool schedule is fairly typical, but perhaps it is typical to me because it is what I have always implemented. My students attend five-days-a-week from 7:30-4:30. We start our day by coming into the classroom, putting coats and backpacks in our cubbies, then we head to the table for name writing practice. Once that is complete we head to centers and small group.
I rotate my center themes each month to offer continued engagement and excitement. For example September centers will look as follows, Math and literacy center will focus on back to school, art is always open ended and free choice with all materials accessible to the students, dramatic play will be set up as a pizza restaurant, STEM will be projects focused around building houses, science will be all about buildings and our sensory tub will be full of colored noodles.
We then have a snack and move onto circle time where we focus on our monthly theme, September is “ready for school”. We read a book relevant to the theme and build off of what we have read through discussion. We also have a character and social skills lesson. From there we move onto letter work. Outdoor exploration time is the most important part of our day, we are outside everyday regardless of the elements. After our morning outdoor exploration we head back to the classroom for journaling. While the students journal, I prep lunch. After lunch we head back outside for more explorer time. We end our day with a nap/rest time and independent explorer time in the classroom until it’s time to say goodbye...
What do you feel are some of the greatest challenges in the early learning field? For you personally?
Having been in the field for 22 years, I feel the biggest struggle has been around perception and validation. Having to advocate to have people recognize the value in what I do and the value it brings to our pre-k youth. I am more than a babysitter, I am a teacher and it’s important to be recognized for the work I do and the work that all others do. The work being done in our field has immense value and it should be recognized as such. Thankfully, we are starting to see a shift in that perception as our state has started to recognize the value in and support meaningful preschool programs. I am so grateful to those voices that are doing the work to bring attention to our field.
For me personally, the biggest daily challenge has always been food/meal-time prep and keeping everyone occupied during that time as they don’t always want to “help”. I’m constantly having to re-invent what I do to accommodate this part of our day.
What are the bright spots of the field? For you personally?
The bright spots on the larger level are the agencies and programs that surround and support our field.
For me personally, the brightest spots are the students I get to spend my days with. Helping them grow academically is always exciting, but the most important element is watching and supporting them to grow in confidence.
Having been in early learning for a while, what significant changes have you seen over your career? What is different about the field, or families or children or all of it?
The most significant change has been in licensing and program support. Twenty-two years ago, I submitted a one-page application along with a small fee, took some basic classes and I was officially licensed to open business. Now, licensing looks very different to support the safety of the children and there are so many support systems and opportunities in place for our growth and success.
What has stayed the same?
With everything, there is always more work to be done to better the field, but I feel strongly that I am surrounded by amazing advocates constantly working to better our field, and experiences for our youth.
What about the future, both personally and for the field? Where do you see yourself in five or ten years? Where do you see the field in five or ten years?
The future of our field is so promising. Through advocacy and support, I feel strongly that we are on the cusp of amazing opportunities for our youngest population. There is so much work to be done and I am grateful every day for those that support the growth and betterment of my field. For me, I continue to look for professional growth in order to stay inspired and excited about the opportunities I get to present to my students. I’m hopeful in 10 year’s time to see more opportunities and quality programs supported at the preschool level and to possibly be supporting those programs in some capacity in a very meaningful way.
Last words? Final thoughts? A picture is worth a thousand…..