February 5, 2013

Galt preschool a learning lab for future teachers in distance program

"Old MacDonald had a cow," sang 20-year-old Anissa Glover, holding up a stuffed animal. The audience of 24 4- and 5-year-olds sang along, some pointing excitedly, others less enthusiastic.

"Old MacDonald had a cow," sang 20-year-old Anissa Glover, holding up a stuffed animal. The audience of 24 4- and 5-year-olds sang along, some pointing excitedly, others less enthusiastic.

The 20-year-old Galt resident isn't a preschool teacher; she is a student. The single mother and 22 other adults are earning their child development associate teacher permit at the Galt preschool through Delta College in Stockton.

The permit will allow them to teach in a private preschool or be an associate teacher in a publicly funded preschool, said professor Vivian Harper, who teaches the Galt program.

Now California State University, Sacramento, is planning to offer courses at the Fairsite School Readiness Center next school year.

The CSUS program – also designed for working adults – will allow students to complete a bachelor of arts degree in child development without setting foot on the Sacramento campus.

"We knew there was a need in that area," said Hebe Mares, a program coordinator in the school's College of Continuing Education. "There were working adults who have to get to school."

Glover is ready. She will complete the Delta program at the end of this semester and plans to sign up for the CSUS program Wednesday. "I've always wanted to teach," she said.

Like the Delta College program, CSUS will hold classes at the school in the evening, but also will require students to spend a specific amount of time working with children in the classroom during the day.

Mares said the CSUS program is meant for community college students working toward transferring to a university. They should have completed most of their lower-division coursework, she said.

The students at Fairsite will get their lessons from teachers on the Sacramento campus via video during three-hour classes held two evenings a week.

Though the online teachers will change, the students should have the same classroom teacher and classmates throughout the three-year program, Mares said.

University officials are hoping they will find the 25 students needed to start the program at a meeting on Feb. 13. So far, about 15 have showed interest, Mares said.

She understands the hesitation. "It's a big deal going to higher education, especially when you are working or have a family or other things you have to juggle," Mares said. "We understand it's pretty intense and it's not cheap."

This isn't the first time Sacramento State has taken its child development courses off campus. The Sacramento campus already has similar programs at seven sites from Placer to Contra Costa counties. Most of the programs are held at county offices of education or at Head Start programs.

There are currently 120 students enrolled in the distance learning program, and 130 have already graduated, Mares said.

Much has changed at the Fairsite campus in recent years. Fairsite Elementary School was closed by Galt Joint Union Elementary School District five years ago to shore up its budget and because of declining enrollment, said district officials.

Now the Fairsite School Readiness Program is the home to 140 preschool students in five classes – four funded by the state and one funded by First Five Sacramento – special education classes, parenting classes, an English literacy program and a clothes closet run by community volunteers.

And when Delta College signed on two years ago, it became a learning laboratory for future teachers.

"It's important to have our school district support higher education, especially in a town with such high unemployment," school Superintendent Karen Schauer said.

She sees a need for more preschool teachers, so that all local children can attend preschool. She also sees it as an asset to adult community members – particularly district employees – who find it difficult to leave Galt to enroll in school. Nine district employees are enrolled in the Delta program.

"We want our employees to have professional development; it helps them to be effective with the children," Schauer said. "It's a win-win."

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