By Ryan Cornell
WOODSTOCK -- Preschoolers, high schoolers and teachers joined in a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" on Thursday to celebrate Central High School's preschool program turning 25 years old.
The program puts 30 students in the school's Early Childhood Education classes in the role as preschool teacher.
Parents pay a tuition to place their children in the preschool, which teaches social skills such as how to stand in line, wait their turn and get along with each other as well as rudimentary number and alphabet skills. The preschool program is held three days each week from 8:30 to 11 a.m.
Connie Pangle, now an assistant principal at Triplett Tech, started the preschool program and taught it for 22 years.
"Preschool is a strong need in this area," she said. "And at that time, Pollywog [Place] wasn't around. Two churches had a preschool and that was it."
She said many of her former students in the program have gone on to become elementary school teachers.
"If there's students that don't want to go into a profession teaching children, it at least teaches them parenting skills," she added.
Family and Consumer Sciences teacher Raelyn Hamilton now teaches the program, and said students in the Early Childcare Education 2 class are responsible for creating lesson plans and implementing them for the preschoolers.
"It has to be engaging and educational at the same time," she said about the lesson plans. "They have to learn and have fun."
Central senior Tiffany Alexander, 18, said she wasn't interested in teaching preschoolers until she took the class and found out how much she enjoyed working with kids. She added that she didn't realize how much work it takes.
"A lot more goes into it than I thought," she said. "I had no idea how much planning went into it, and how much preschool kids learn."
Another senior, Kendra Coffey, 17, helps in the Senior Instructional Leadership Corps as Hamilton's assistant.
She said she plans to graduate from Lord Fairfax Community College with an associate's degree in elementary education and transfer to Shepherd University.
She said the class has not only taught her how to make lesson plans, but also to make them both fun and educational.
"It's just a really great program," she said.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org