San Gabriel Valley Catholic schools offer transitional kindergarten program
08.16.2012 | San Gabriel Valley Tribune | Claudia S. Palma
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success,” Alexander Graham Bell.
Local Catholic schools will begin offering more tools to better prepare children for kindergarten – and eventually educational success.
Nativity Catholic School in El Monte is one of those schools that will offer transitional kindergarten for 3- and 4-year-olds, when school heads back on Aug. 20.
“All the teachers here are excited about this new venture as they know the caliber of students they have now and can only imagine how much more prepared the students will be with this so important beginning stage,” said Sister Stacy Reineman, Nativity principal.
In transitional kindergarten, or TK, children will participate in a full-day program incorporating fine motor skills, social skills, movement, beginning phonics, math and religion.
Students that start and continue at Nativity from kindergarten all the way up to eighth grade are sometimes more successful than those who start at a later grade at the school, noted Reineman.
“One of our students received a scholarship to Bishop Amat High School, another two received scholarships to Alverno High School,” she added. “That’s what we try to tell the parents, that the earlier you bring them, the more you’re setting them up for success.”
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles encouraged local Catholic schools to offer TK, providing them with curriculum and materials.
“Parents have been asking me for a preschool. It’s a whole lot cheaper than preschool,” said Reineman.
The difference between TK and preschool is preschool does not traditionally have a curriculum, noted Reineman, and not all preschools offer learning programs that transitional kindergarten does. TK at Nativity will cost less than $350 a month.
Nativity’s second-grade teacher, Sara Diaz, studied early childhood development and is a perfect fit for leading the TK class.
“We are designing a program that will give them a heads up – introduce them to going to school,” said Diaz. “In TK they’re learning the very basic structure of a book, they learn what sharing is about, socializing, time structure – things they (may not have) experienced already. As academic as it sounds, they think they’re playing. It’s really about exposure, tapping that part of the brain.”
From an assessment given to incoming kindergartners, Reineman notes that some students may have some knowledge while many that have not had any early education experience don’t have much knowledge, and that can be challenging for a kindergarten teacher to work with.
“So what we have is a room full of kids with a different levels of skills,” she said. “Through TK, (incoming kindergarten students) will have the same or similar skills.”
Kindergarten teacher Lucy Camarena said she is excited because of how it will help her when the students get to her class.
“By the time they come into my classroom, they’re more socially prepared, more mature,” she said. “Believe it or not in a few months there’s a huge difference. There isn’t the pressures of the kindergarten standards, they get to go at their own pace.”
Robyn Lopez of Montclair has a son at Nativity who will be an incoming second-grader and another 4-year-old son going into TK this year.
“Our first son went to LAUP (Los Angeles Universal Preschool), then to Nativity for kindergarten and he had a great kinder year,” said Lopez, who is also a teacher at a public school district.
“I’m hoping it’s a big stepping stone,” she said. “I’m hoping he gets more out of TK than just the three hours a day he goes to at preschool.”
Nativity parent Therese Diaz is also an educator and looked around at other schools before deciding to send her son and daughter to her alma mater. Her son is an incoming second-grader and her daughter will start in TK this year.
“What Sister Stacy wants to offer is all-inclusive. It would really prepare those kids when they go into the kindergarten program,” said Diaz, whose daughter was already in a private preschool program.
“I’ve personally seen the difference. Anyone who’s had a preschool experience does much better in kinder and that sets the tone (for their educational career),” she adds.
Sacred Heart Catholic school in Covina will also start TK this fall.
Sacred Heart principal April Luchonok said they have had requests from parents for an early education program and decided now was the time to take advantage of it.
“We’re very excited,” she said. “I have parents now who have 3-year-olds that are excited knowing TK will be available for their children.”
Sacred Heart is accepting 10 students this year with a maximum of 12. Luchonok said they hope to expand the following year.
Nativity will accept up to 25 students this year and has registered more than half that already. Both schools will still accept applications for a waiting list if they are full.
“It’s really progressive of Sister Stacy to get this program going. She really understands the total child,” added Diaz.
Sacred Heart is at 360 W. Workman St., Covina. For more information on Sacred Heart, call 626-332-7222 or visit www.shs.cc.
Nativity is at 10907 St. Louis Drive, El Monte. For more information or to register, call 626-448-2414 or visit http://school.mynativity.org.
626-962-8811, ext. 2110
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