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Pre-kindergarten thrives in Cornelius

Echo Shaw program ensures kids from migrant families get head start

Funded by a grant from the federal Migrant Education Program, the first-year pre-kindergarten class at Echo Shaw Elementary School in Cornelius is “pretty incredible,” according to Principal Perla Rodriguez.

Each school-day morning, 16 eager 4- to 5-year-old boys and girls huddle around teacher Jamy Amaya, who instructs her charges in reading, math, science, social studies, social development and cultural literacy.

“This is a pilot program,” said Amaya, who received her undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon and a master’s in education degree from Portland State University. “I created the curriculum by ‘backward planning’ from the standard kindergarten curriculum.

“Our goal is to have each student successfully prepared to enter the kindergarten classroom the following school year.”

The class is taught in both English and Spanish Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:20 a.m. — except on Wednesdays, when parents join students to receive instruction on parenting and educational strategies until 1 p.m. Transportation is provided either by school bus or via the parents.

In the learning process, students use both iPads and laptops. “The iPads are shared by two students, but each student has a laptop to use,” said Amaya. “We not only teach academics, we also pay attention to social development and having them able to express their feelings through the use of the five senses — sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch.”

Amaya, who has taught both fourth-grade and kindergarten, said she loves her job. “I believe in what we’re doing, and in the need to have a strong preschool program. We’ve already been accepted by the Migrant Education Program for next year, and from there it will be an on going program here at Echo Shaw.”

The preparatory program gives children from migrant families a head start on schooling and ensures they are not penalized in any manner by disparities among states in curriculum, graduation requirements or state academic content and student academic achievement standards. The program’s stated goal is to ensure that all migrant students “reach challenging academic standards and graduate with a high school diploma (or complete a GED) that prepares them for responsible citizenship, further learning and productive employment.”

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