CLARKS SUMMIT — Confidence can easily go missing during early childhood education, according to Karen Woytach, teacher of two new kindergarten and first-grade preparation programs at Trinity Lutheran Church, and Beverly Phillips, an Abington Heights School District mother whose letter to the church in February 2014 sparked the idea for the programs.
“Many first-grade parents, when my daughter was in first grade, were stunned at how fast the curriculum was going and the difficulty their kids were having in fully understanding the lesson plans,” Phillips said.
The Abington Heights Schoool District’s transition program was cut in June 2011 to avoid a tax hike for property owners in the district, according to an Abington Journal report. Phillips explained the program offered a full day of further assistance in math and reading for students who completed kindergarten, and since it was cut, those children are now required to either enter first grade or repeat kindergarten.
“The transition program was a huge loss to the district,” she said. “One half-day kindergarten is not cutting it for all students and some are entering first grade unprepared and quickly lose confidence in their abilities.”
She said Abington Heights is the only district in the area that does not offer full-day kindergarten.
The church, which already offers an established preschool program, explored the option of opening a full-day kindergarten, but discovered several other area private schools already do so and are not at full enrollment. Desiring to use their resources to fulfill community needs and not seeing a need for another full-day kindergarten class, church officials decided instead to form two partial-day classes, the Kindergarten Readiness Program, to help prepare preschool children for kindergarten and the Foundations/Transition Program (FTP) to help ready kindergarten students for first grade.
Both classes will hold a maximum of 12 students each, taught by Woytach, who has more than 15 years experience in early childhood education and holds a master’s degree in reading education. Most recently, she taught for nine years at Wyoming Seminary — first grade from 2005 to 2010 and pre-school from 2010 to 2014. She will be assisted by one classroom aid in each class.
One of her goals for the two classes, Woytach said, is to create an environment where the children feel comfortable, are happy and can learn without realizing they are learning.
“When you’re in early childhood education, it’s terrible to see a child who comes to your space who has this thought that school is a terrible place,” she said.
Phillips has no doubt in Woytach’s ability to accomplish this goal.
“If there are any kids struggling, she is going to fill them with confidence,” Phillips said.
The Kindergarten Readiness Program will run from 8:30 to 11:45 a.m. Monday through Friday, beginning Monday, Sept. 14 and ending Friday, June 3, 2016. According to the church’s website, it is “for students to experience an academic program beyond preschool, that allows for the introduction of, exposure to, and practice in skills necessary for success in kindergarten.”
To enroll, a child must complete a 4-year-old preschool program or be kindergarten eligible.
The Foundations/Transition Program (FTP) will run from 12:45 to 3:15 p.m. Monday through Friday, beginning in September. According to the website, it focuses on “exposure to and practice in specific content area skills that are necessary to prepare current kindergarten students for the expectations of first grade,” specifically in the skills of mathematics, language arts and writing.
In both programs, snacks will be provided each day and children will engage in outdoor activity when the weather permits.
The total yearly cost of each program is $3,000, with various payment plans available. For more information, call Carole Hamersly at the church office at 570-587-1088.