Pre-K helps students adjust to school

Kyla Johnson’s pre-K classroom at Prairie View Elementary School was a beehive of activity – all of it with a deliberate purpose – on a recent day.
The day started with students walking in zigzagging paths as they greeted each other and Johnson to the tune “Hello Friends.”
Everyone grouped around Payton Kellum as she displayed her stuffed elephant for show and tell.
During “bug in a rug,” one student hid under a blanket while another student went to a corner briefly so they couldn’t see who was the hidden “bug.”
When the student came back to guess the identity of the hidden classmate, the other students gave hints – such as the names of the friends of the “bug.”
Johnson, who was named teacher of year for the Mustang district last March, believes keeping pre-K for a full day throughout Mustang Public Schools is important.
That’s at risk.
In order to continue

it, the school district needs the addition of a pre-K center that is a key item in a proposed $47 million bond issue on a special election ballot April 7.
Since Mustang schools made pre-K available for a full day for past school year, it has taken classroom space at all of the district’s eight elementary schools, pushing three of them near capacity and one – Lakehoma – to 105% of capacity, Superintendent Charles Bradley said.
“The status quo is unsustainable,” Bradley said. “We’ll have to phase it out if the bond issue doesn’t pass.
Pre-k has improved dramatically since Johnson and other teachers started it in Mustang schools 16 years ago at the Mustang Education Center on North Clear Springs Road.
It was half-day.
“We were rushed and barely able to get in one round of each activity,” Johnson said.
“Now, we can pace ourselves. It’s amazing to see the students get one step ahead in their emotional and educational development.”
The full day enables students – and parents – to gradually become comfortable with a full school day, she said.
“They learn routines and procedures,” she said.
The students go to art, music and PE classes, and they visit the school’s library and the computer lab.
Many students not only learn their alphabet but also can identify words.
After the class hears a story, the students identify the plot, setting and characters.
Johnson benefits from having a full-time assistant, Kelli Castleberry.
A parent volunteers every Thursday.
Sheri Wetekam brings her Hazel, an Australian shepherd who is trained as a therapy dog, to class every Wednesday.
“Our room calms down when Hazel comes in,” Johnson said. “It relieves stress.”
When a student become angry, Johnson encourages them to take deep breaths.
They can go to a “safe place” in the classroom and jump on a mini-trampoline, if they like.
Johnson used “conscious discipline,” which encourages the kids to think through their behavior.
“When a student gets frustrated, I ask, ‘you became angry because – why?’” she said.
“It’s amazing how much they grow up throughout the year.”

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