What is ACES?
What does the initiative offer to early learning providers? Who is involved? Who can attend?
In August, 2012, the Richland School District’s ACES Coordinator, Nicki Blake, invited early learning providers from across the district to begin a partnership of information sharing, training, and technical assistance. The group has continued to meet monthly, on the 3rd Thursday of each month, from 6:30-8:30, generally at the Richland High School Library. At the January, 2013 meeting, over 45 preschool teachers and child care providers attending the meeting. The meeting is open to any early learning partner who wants to improve his/her skills with children and/or enhance program quality. Newcomers are encouraged to join in.
I thought school programs begin with Kindergarten. What does the school district know about young children?
Richland schools have been serving young children for many years in a variety of settings. Currently, there is a preschool classroom on every campus of the 8 elementary schools. Some are run by the district, and some are partnerships with federal Head Start or the state-funded Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).
Richland also serves infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with special developmental needs in a variety of settings including home-based services, preschool classrooms, and partnerships with the Children’s Developmental Center, Head Start, or ECEAP. All of these services are free to families whose children qualify.
Richland utilizes the expertise of their specialists such as speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, nurses, and their talented kindergarten teachers to design and implement quality programs for children. Additionally, they partner with Childcare Aware and Karen Weakley, an Early Learning Consultant, to further guide the ACES initiative forward.
I am a preschool teacher in a faith-based program. How can the school district help me?
The free monthly meetings offered by the district give early learning partners a chance to gain best practice information on a variety of topics to improve their work with young children. Meeting participants also receive concrete materials such as blocks, books, and learning center materials, along with handouts to spark new ideas for some of your learning centers.
I am a child care provider who needs STARS training hours. Would participating in these meetings help me get those hours?
Absolutely! Because of our unique partnership with Childcare Aware, each of these trainings offers 2 STARS hours just for participating. There is not cost for the STARS hours or the training and you will walk away with practical ideas you can use in your program the very next day!
What are some of the topics the group has discussed so far?
In August, Nicki Blake, ACES Coordinator, and Erich Bolz, Assistant Superintendent of Special Programs, shared information about the development of the ACES initiative and the district’s desire to strengthen the readiness of all of Richland’s children. Nicki facilitated a dialogue with participants about their needs in the field and how Richland schools may be able to support them. Each participant was given a set of the Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines to help guide our work together. Suzanne Suyama, of Childcare Aware, encouraged licensed child care providers to enroll in the Early Achievers program, noting that Richland school district will be a partner in this training.
In October, Karen Weakley did a walk-through of the WA State Early Learning Guidelines and we discovered how we would use them in our programs and with parents. Michelle Fickle, Kindergarten teacher, reviewed the Kindergarten Screening tool used throughout the district at Kindergarten entry. Copies of the screening tool were given to all for their review.
In November, we tapped the expertise of the special education department, as Kim Casas, Speech and Language Pathologist, and Bonnie Wickler, Preschool Coordinator, shared information about typical and atypical language development for young children. A role-play activity showed us how to have difficult conversations with parents when children are struggling to learn. There was also a little play time with Geoboards as we discussed how best to use them in the classroom.
January brought us another expert, as Laine _______, an occupational therapist with Richland, shared information about large and small motor development, focusing on skills for writing. To continue with the idea of writing, Karen Weakley shared simple strategies on building writing skills as part of children learning to read.
The February topic will brought back Michelle Fickle, offering strategies for building early literacy with children and families, and a creative twist, with Rachel Blake, a district music teacher, demonstrating literacy development through music.
There is a child in my program that I worry about. He doesn’t seem to catch on as quickly as the other children and has violent outbursts. Will the district team help me with this?
We know that children do much better in school if we are able to meet their special needs at a young age. A conversation with a resource person in the Special Programs department may help you decide whether or not a referral for special education is needed and how to approach the parent with your concerns. To begin this conversation, contact Nicki Blake in the Early Learning Department at 967-6072 or Bonnie Wickler in Special Programs at 967-6057.
I have heard about the program for child care called Early Achievers. Is the Richland School District involved in this?
Yes. They are partnering with Childcare Aware to facilitate the learning of those providers participating in this process. This “cohort” of Richland providers will be supporting each other in their learning and work closely with their district partners to implement strategies that will prepare our kids for kindergarten. Currently, 5 providers have signed up for the process. More are welcome! Here is the link for more information about Early Achievers: http://www.del.wa.gov/care/qris/Default.aspx or contact Suzanne Suyama at 544-0114.