Park City preschool program draws attention
Program impresses teachers on visit from Philadelphia
Six years after being implemented at all four of the Park City School District’s elementary schools, the district’s preschool program is thriving.
The program has been so successful, in fact, that it’s drawn the attention of educators more than 2,000 miles away. Recently, a handful of faculty members from The Philadelphia School, a private school in Pennsylvania, visited Park City to observe the program and collaborate with local teachers.
The district’s preschool director Kathy Anderson said a longtime official at The Philadelphia School, Sandra Dean, lives in Park City part time and has been assessing the preschool program since its inception. Dean’s desire to have Philadelphia School teachers learn firsthand what makes the district’s program so effective speaks highly of Park City’s efforts, Anderson said.
She said it proved to be an enlightening experience for the educators, who were eager to share their findings with their colleagues in Pennsylvania.
“They felt it was a real shot in the arm for them to go back and share with their staff and parents how they want to revamp their program based on what they saw in Park City,” Anderson said, adding that she would like to one day send Park City teachers to The Philadelphia School for similar collaboration.
The collaboration was also encouraging for Park City’s teachers, who were pleased to show off their program. Debbie Freeman, who teaches full-day preschool at McPolin Elementary School, said it was nice to get warm feedback from The Philadelphia School educators.
“It’s always great to have people come in and say, ‘Wow, what a great job you guys are doing,’ because we don’t hear that often enough,” she said. “It’s just kind of a nice boost to take us through the end of the school year like, ‘What we’re doing is very valuable and we’re good at it.’”
Amy Bean, a preschool teacher at Parley’s Park Elementary School, echoed that sentiment and added that it was pleasing to see that The Philadelphia School teachers were receptive to fresh ideas.
“I was really appreciative of that because one of them had been teaching for 30 years,” she said. “They’re very well educated and they’ve seen a lot, and they were very open to new ideas of how we run our program.”
But The Philadelphia School teachers weren’t the only ones who learned from the visit. Jen Bramson, another teacher at McPolin, said it was interesting to hear the perspective of educators who work in a different environment. Both sides were able to share unique insights and learn from one another.
“It was very interesting,” she said. “They have a very different school because it’s a private school. But it was really neat to see their creativity versus our more structured program, and were able to share a lot of ideas that way. I think they took a lot of ideas from our program about how we teach the alphabet and writing. From them, we learned a lot about documentation and doing some more creative, broader projects than we normally do.”
Freeman added that The Philadelphia School teachers were particularly impressed with how focused children are in Park City’s program, which relies on a routine to make sure students understand their role.
“Our program is really successful because kids know what to expect,” she said. “Whereas the other group (of teachers) was saying they have problems because they’re not on a strict schedule and the kids kind of get off task. We don’t really have that problem here because the kids know what routines we follow and they know what comes next.”
That makes the transition to kindergarten much easier — which is the ultimate goal of the program. Given that, it’s no surprise that educators from another part of the country wanted to come and see the program firsthand, Bramson said.
“The kids that leave our program are so prepared for public school,” she said. “And they’re happy here. I believe in this program. I think what we do is preparing kids for success in public school.”
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