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Morning Sun
  • PSU preschool teaches kids and college students

  • The entire Pittsburg State University campus is available for use by the Early Childhood Development program as both preschoolers and college students learn.

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  • The entire Pittsburg State University campus is available for use by the Early Childhood Development program as both preschoolers and college students learn.
    The university offers a preschool for children in the community, and it is there that college students put their learning into practice as the teachers of preschool students. This all occurs under the direction of lead preschool teacher Kari Cronister and assistant professor Amber Tankersley.
    Tankersley is the director of the preschool lab, and said the setting gives student teachers the opportunity to practice and test teaching methods.
    “They’re responsible for planning a portion of the time they’re in there,” Tankersley said. “As long as they’re targeting different learning domains, they’re pretty much free to design whatever curriculum.”
    She said the key is to follow developmentally appropriate curriculum, but the specifics are left up to each student teacher. The college students’ selections mean each unit of each semester turns out differently.
    Cronister said the college students’ creativity knows no bounds, and units on space, farm animals, oceans, jungles and around the world have been taught.
    “It’s really great when they pick units that we can use part of the campus for,” Cronister said, citing the incorporation of the planetarium into the space-themed unit, or the obvious jungle connections.
    The college students also learn, and Tankersley said each student’s turn leading also teaches management skills as they collaborate with others in the class.
    “Managing adults is a lot harder than managing children,” she said. “It gives you good teamworking skills.”
    Cronister said the experience of working in the preschool as a Pitt State student prepared her well.
    “They really prepared you,” Cronister said. “It was a lot of hard work.”
    But, she said it helped when she and her mom owned a home daycare.
    Caitlin Ralstin is a Pitt State student working at the preschool and agreed that the hands-on experience helps.
    “It is definitely a great learning experience,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot, and definitely a lot about rules and regulations.
    “It definitely put what we learned in Amber’s (Tankersley) classes into real life.”
    Ralstin said she began college as a physical therapy major, but working in the daycare at the YMCA helped to develop her interest in working with children.
    Now, as a student working in the preschool, Ralston had the opportunity to get involved with organizations for those working with young children and said she has learned that careers in the field can range from having a home daycare to directing children’s programming on a Disney cruise or at a resort location.
    “Our students go into a lot of different areas,” Tankersley added.
    Page 2 of 2 - Ralston said it also has been helpful to watch classmates teach and to learn about their teaching styles and techniques
    Tankersley said the program has grown and recently became accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children after an extensive process culminating with a site visit last January.
    She said accreditation had been in the works since before she began her position and that it is helpful for both the preschool students who are learning in the environment and for the university students who are able to put it on a resume.
    The preschool enrolls 16 to 20 students per session and offers morning and afternoon sessions, where student teachers work to develop language, aesthetic, cognitive, physical, affective and social skills as they relate to reading, writing, arts, science and math, health, safety and motor development, feelings and relationships.
    The preschool does have a waiting list and children may be added anytime after their second birthday.
    Tuition is $500 per semester for four days, or $450 per semester for three days.
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