Preparing our Youth for the Future

How does a preschool teacher catch the attention of youth three and four-year-olds, you ask?

Like many of us as adults, preschoolers need a routine to feel consistency in their life. Consistency builds trust in youth, knowing that their teachers will attend to their every need. So, kiddos end up feeling comfortable and safe, and when they hear a teacher talk, they know it must be important.

Any parent or teacher knows this is no small feat and might even chuckle at the seemingly simple answer. We all know it takes endless patience to round up preschoolers and have them sit tolerantly on a carpet until further direction. But, when you can visibly see these youth developing social, physical, and intellectual skills by creating consistency with a daily routine, the persistence is worth it.

A Place to Grow

Our classrooms are uniquely designed to develop the social, physical, and intellectual building blocks youth need to thrive, which is at the core of YMCA’s value-based approach to early learning. The learning carpet is one of many enticing areas in all of our licensed preschools across the valley.

Teachers utilize what the bare eye may see as ‘just another children’s playroom carpet’ to transform students from whatever they came into the classroom with to a sense of calm by introducing the day’s schedule every morning.

Standing on the carpet at Southwest Valley Family YMCA is Alicia Bravo, Preschool Director, and Teacher. She articulates how every morning they start their day on the carpet with a preschool meeting, “A morning meeting sets the standard for what our preschoolers will do throughout the day. It is also a place where we get to chat about the day’s schedule, our goals, and an energizing Question of the Day.” Alicia also leads her students through reiterating classroom agreements each day to reinforce appropriate behaviors that ensure a healthy learning environment for youth.

Song and dance is also a powerful tool to capture the attention and shape the developmental building blocks of our preschoolers. Alicia, and our preschool directors across the valley, use song and dance to welcome students to the classroom while building name recognition skills. Preschoolers are letting some healthy energy out through physical movement when they jump and dance around when it’s their turn to be welcomed.

The little ditty at Southwest Valley Family YMCA that gets each preschool on their feet goes like this, “Eva’s here today, Eva’s here today. We all are so happy that Eva’s here today!” As a parent or guardian, you might be thinking, “My child is too shy to participate in those activities every day!” Or, “My child is not a morning person. There’s no way they would participate morning after morning.” Well, you might be correct!

However, our teachers encourage students to recognize why they don’t want to participate in a given activity, recognize what those feelings are, and understand that it is okay to feel those feelings of maybe tiredness, anger, or sadness. The social-emotional awareness, tuning in to how we feel, is what our teachers inspire our students to do for successful development.

Do you see it now? These learning carpets are not ‘just another children’s playroom carpet,’ rather a magical place for our youth to learn the skills and have imperative experiences for their success moving forward.

Transitioning to the Next Level

The design of each classroom utilizes the approach to school readiness goals, defined as,

“The expectations of children’s status and progress across domains of language and literacy development, cognition and general knowledge, approaches to learning, physical well-being and motor development, and social and emotional development that will improve readiness for kindergarten goals.”

Our teachers utilize their educational background and creativity to design a classroom with activities that build on these goals. A sensory table light table might catch a student’s eye that will foster fine motor and cognitive development. An art masterpiece might be awaiting a student to create it at one of our easel centers. Twirling colorful scarves may be at the hands of our youth as they build physical well-being and gross motor skills. A future book author? They may be sitting down at our activity table learning the basics of handwriting, letter, and name recognition with the help of a teacher.

Come see the creativeness of our preschool classrooms with your own eyes by booking a private tour at your local facility.

The Power of Role Models

Our teachers across the valley show up every day to empower the lives of youth. Miss Bravo is one of many staff members that reflected on what to do with her career and how she could be a role model for her son,

“I found the YMCA and really connected with their core values. With my knowledge of early childhood, it gave me the flexibility and freedom to create a program to enrich the lives of these children and give them the tools they need to be ready for kindergarten and beyond. And it really just brings families together.”

A career at the YMCA is truly a career with a cause where we offer the opportunity for you to grow as a mentor and a leader. Our staff of all backgrounds, ages, and experiences enjoy the personal satisfaction in knowing they helped nurture the potential and development of youth and teens, improved the health and well-being of their community, and provided social and economic support to their neighbors in need.

Are you looking for a career with a cause? Find your career at the Y!

Rebecca Varney, Community Relations Coordinator, Valley of the Sun YMCA, striving to tell your #WhyTheY story.

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