Baldwin High School has continued to provide a long-standing preschool program for over 50 years, and now, it is thriving more than ever—but not without vitalizing community support and a progressive student response.
The preschool program is one-of-a-kind as it is taught by Baldwin-Whitehall's own high school seniors while under the direction of Family and Consumer Science teachers Ginny Pfatteicher and Becky Brennfleck. Two programs, either morning or afternoon, are offered that run from October through May. Registration is still open, and slots are available for the 2012-2013 school year.
What makes this program stand out in particular is that it runs four days per week, unlike many other preschools in the area that only operate on three-day schedules. Affordability and cost-efficiency is also where the program finds its pride.
"For the year, the entire program is only $275," Pfatteicher said, "and every dollar goes right back into the program to cover our costs."
Not only does the preschool program take full advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities that Baldwin High has to offer, like its newly constructed gymnasium, turf field and swimming pool, but the class also ventures out to Pittsburgh attractions. Past field trips have included the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the Carnegie Science Center and the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.
Most recently, the program held a preschool prom in which students were dressed to impress as they entered on a red carpet runway. Parents, family and teachers posed as paparazzi. Students also received a boutonnière or corsage to mimic prom tradition as they kicked off the day with some dancing and pictures.
A typical day in the preschool classroom, though, begins with free play in order to develop the students' social skills, followed by lesson plans arranged by the high school senior teachers themselves. Each week follows a specific theme that includes a corresponding activity, snack, game and story time that also incorporates an essential educational basis.
"We are academically aligned to kindergarten curriculum to make the transition into that setting easier," Brennfleck said.
While integrating Language Arts, Math, Science, Art and motor skills into everyday instruction, the preschool students are able to creatively express themselves through a unique learning opportunity.
"Learning something new makes the kids want to know more, and here, learning is made fun, which is really spot-on," said Amy Herrle, mother of current preschool students (and twins) Gabriel and Annabelle Herrle.
The one-on-one time that each preschool student receives with his or her high school senior teacher is another important connector in the counterparts' journey of learning, too.
"The genuine connection each teacher gives shows the individual care (the teachers) have for each student," said Karolyn Kelly, mother of preschool student Alex Kelly.
Praise of the program, though, is credited to the specific process that each interested high school senior must undergo to be considered as a preschool teacher. The process requires that each applicant must take a child development class, write a letter detailing why they would become an asset to the program and supply two teacher recommendations.
Following their admittance into the program—a subject important to many of the high school seniors considering the relation of this field to their future endeavors—the investment and passion that the seniors put into the program shines through in their teamwork and interactions with the younger students and with one another.
"Ask any senior taking this course, and I am sure that 100 percent would say that this is their favorite class," Pfatteicher said. "The planning, time management and job skills these students acquire are a great benefit to the program."
If you are interested in the program, or if you need more information, please contact Ginny Pfatteicher at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 412-885-7522.