Preschool program returns after being modified

By Icza Huizar and Chuck Baumgartner

Preschool returns this semester to WEGO for a longer term with more children after being forced to modify the program last year due to COVID.

For the last several years, the Advanced Child Development classes at West Chicago Community High School have run a preschool program for local children. WEGO students serve as teachers, and the preschoolers are taught basic lessons, and given the opportunity to build social and emotional skills. 

The program, which is headed up by Family and Consumer Science teacher Brittney Bauer, is more important this year than ever before. The Advanced Child Development classes are starting up a “normal” semester of preschool and taking into account the fact these children went through remote learning if they were enrolled in preschool last year. Not all children can sit and stare at a screen for hours, and many did not have access to all of the necessary materials for activities if subjected to virtual education. 

Students enjoying snack time. (Photo by Brittney Bauer)

Then, in May 2021, West Chicago Community High School offered a mix of  remote and in-school preschool, which was “fun but crazy”, since Bauer had to deal with both the children in the building as well as those attending virtually. To complicate the matter, only 30 minutes were allotted for a class period last year, whereas in previous years, Bauer explained, the typical 50-minute class periods were already a challenge. However, there were fewer preschoolers in attendance (the program normally sees 10- 20 attendees).

Bauer said, “Having the kids remote was crazy and hectic a lot more planning because I had to contact parents ahead of time, tell them what materials they needed from home, and make sure to pick supplies everybody would have at home. When it was virtual, we had to have the parents or a babysitter log-in on the computer. Sometimes they had to help the kid because we weren’t there next to them, so that was trickier. We did have outdoor preschool in May, which is a lot of fun, but we had virtual preschool with in-person preschool which was very crazy. I had some of the kids still staying virtual, and some parents were allowing their kid in-person.”

The 2021-22 school year saw a return to full in-person learning for all WEGO students. During the second semester, Bauer and her Advanced Child Development classes started promoting preschool, and successfully managed to recruit 6 children, which has since increased to 8. The opportunity to teach preschool again was exciting for not only the preschoolers, but especially for the high school students and their teacher, who have been anticipating the program’s return. 

Senior Sydney Ostapa said, “This semester, we have a lot more kids than last semester, so we’ve been able to have a wider variety [of activities]. We’re not all crowded around three kids now; we have more, so it’s easier to see what they’re all doing and how different their minds work.”

Two students sharing snacks during snack time. (Photo by Brittney Bauer)

Now, Bauer explained, she can act more as a director than a teacher. She enjoys watching her students take control over the classroom and manage the responsibilities as young teachers.

Bauer said, “This semester I can stay at my desk and watch what’s going on, and have my high school students or advanced students handle things. I’m there only if needed.”

“I love seeing me teach the high school students and then all of a sudden, they’re teaching the preschoolers. It’s really rewarding to see everything that I impacted, how they handle the children, and questions that they ask the children, and developmentally appropriate activities they do with the children. So it is definitely rewarding to see that,” said Bauer.

One of the more interesting observations for Bauer is the way her students help the preschoolers overcome separation anxiety. 

There are many more exciting events that come with preschool, including an upcoming trip to Brookfield Zoo. The program has not had the chance to go since 2019, and Bauer is hoping to get the chance this year, but doing so will depend on COVID guidelines.

The preschool kids patiently and attentively sit during group time.
(Photo by Brittney Bauer)

“So far, preschool has been really exciting with the little kids, and being able to hangout with them, and learn about the little kids. I am looking forward to going to the zoo with them, to see[ing] their ceremony for their graduation, and their development,” said senior Ashley Gonzalez.

The class will also host a preschool graduation ceremony, an event for parents to see their child and all the skills they have learned. 

“Some things we look forward to [include] our preschool graduation ceremony where period five/six will put on the ceremony with the kids on stage, and period seven/eight will have a little party and slideshow,” said Bauer.

For the Advanced Child Development students, the preschool session that began in late February has provided an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with children. For those who want to continue working with children in the future, these experiences are one of “the best parts” of the class.

“The best part of working with kids is learning how they all develop skills differently and being able to teach them new things. That’s really fun. This semester, the kids are really outgoing and they communicate with the teachers very well,” said senior Susana Ramirez.

Senior Carely Resendiz said, “They’re all different, and since I want to be a teacher, it’s interesting to be hands-on with them. You really get to experience how the kids think and how they act.”