As we round the corner to fall, we are absolutely in the “back to school” mode. In fact, my twin girls started first grade this morning, the reality of their school routine not exactly fully welcomed just yet! A new school year means entering a new classroom, or for many children, entering a new school building all together. For all, it means new routines, new people to meet, new rules to follow, new tests of knowledge and skill, new adventures and challenges as yet untold, but not entirely unknown!
Now, imagine all this at age 5!
Fortunately, there are very skilled, talented and experienced early childhood educators to help young children not only make a smooth transition from preschool into kindergarten (in the BIG building!), but also, and more importantly, to help prepare young children (and their naturally nervous, loving parents) for success in school, armed with the confidence and skills to be their very best selves, thrive and just generally show off their stuff.
This is, I am proud to say, very much the case for young children lucky enough to attend Y Preschool and Head Start programs across the region. Year after year, we educate and “graduate” little learners who are very well prepared to succeed in school. Indeed, year after year Y Preschool and Head Start children assess ahead of state norms for all preschool children in the state on school readiness measures, regardless of income. That is not a misprint.
Take the experience of Y Preschool parent Rachel and her husband Dan. They were kind enough to let us know about their family’s experience at the Betty Sterner Y Preschool in Catonsville (named for the longtime Y Preschool Director who helped shape countless young lives in Catonsville). Her letter below to Bob Smith, Director of the school, expresses what we want every parent to feel: that caring, loving, knowledgeable Y teachers meet their children “where they are” and help them become successful, confident and happy young students well prepared to take on life’s challenges and succeed.
August 24, 2016
Mr. Robert Smith
Director, Y Preschool in Catonsville
850 S. Rolling Road
Catonsville, MD 21228
I wanted to thank you a successful 2015-2016 school year. As a family, this is our third year having a child enrolled in the preschool (Year 3 for Holden and Year 1 for Graydon). The start of your tenure at the preschool has been a most positive one. Dan and I welcomed the changes to the well-established center. Your attention to detail and timely communication has provided us with the ability to plan for our children and be quite comfortable with their continued enrollment at the Y. You welcome my children with a smile and an open door (even when you may be too busy for company). They feel a part of the preschool and enjoy returning day after day.
Dan and I can’t say enough about the curriculum delivered by the experienced and loving teachers. We couldn’t be happier with the quality of their education as well as the positive, nurturing social environment. Holden and Graydon were afforded opportunities to grow as students and as children.
Ms. Esther, Ms. Candy, Ms. Mita, and Ms. Shawna were patient and caring with Graydon as he transitioned to preschool. He is a curious, determined, self-driven little boy who experienced separation issues when he first started in August 2015. He didn’t want to “follow” the rules as he had been home for over two years. Esther was patient, yet firm, with him. He learned the rules and procedures of Room 1. Every morning, Mita had a way of bringing Graydon in such a way that he wouldn’t be as sad after being dropped off. Yesterday on the way home, he told me he loved Ms. Esther. This is a long way from when he didn’t want to go to school at all. As his mother, it makes me so happy to know that he is thriving in preschool. He has grown and learned so much thanks to the incredible staff that was a part of his first experience.
There aren’t enough words to completely capture Ms. Cheryl and what she means to Holden and to us. For two years, she spent more time with Holden than Dan or I. When Holden was dropped off each day we knew he was in the best hands. Cheryl taught him to be a student, friend, and good classmate.
From Cheryl, Holden learned his basics, how to read, and how to problem-solve. Her routines and structure were exactly what Holden needed. She challenged him to be his best while being nurturing and understanding. She “held his hand” as well as gave him autonomy to learn and grow. We respected her judgment and expertise regarding his education and social interactions. Dan and I are confident in knowing that all of her decisions were made in Holden’s best interest. Holden loved going to school and seeing Cheryl. He misses her terribly. To say that Holden loves her is an understatement. Holden was so fortunate to be able to benefit from Cheryl’s expertise. She fostered his love of learning and his sheer joy about everything he did. We know that Holden is ready to excel in kindergarten and we attribute that to Cheryl. Dan and I truly hope that Graydon will be able to benefit from Cheryl’s expertise as well.
Again, Dan and I want to thank you and your incredible staff for all that you have done for Holden and Graydon this past school year. They both grew academically and socially. For that, we thank the strong program that you run at the Y Preschool.
Dan and I are looking forward to another great year for Graydon.
Needless to say, we appreciate receiving letters like this. It makes all of the hard work worth it. Special thanks go as to Bob Smith and his wonderful team, including Esther Jefferson, Candy Ward, Mita Mehta, Shawna Fleet and Cheryl Jordan. They have so clearly made a fundamental difference in the lives of young Holden and Graydon. It’s hard to imagine more important work than to help lay the foundation for successful lives, as you so clearly have.
All the best,
John K. Hoey
President & CEO
The Y in Central Maryland